Matt Volk struggled mightily at the beginning of the season. He had surgery on his knee over the summer to repair a torn meniscus and the road back from it was anything but easy for the Rollins standout.
“I was a bit nervous going into pre-season and playing college-level soccer again after a long break. Slowly but surely, I got my touch back and was able to earn a spot on the travel team to Colorado,” Volk said. “Colorado marked the beginning of a very hard time for the team. After losing our first 3 games (and all of them being only one goal apart), it was very difficult for the team to stay positive. This proved to be a hard time for me as well. I wasn’t playing my best, and as a result, only played about 10-20 minutes every game. But I did not let this get me down and continued to work hard and stay focused in practices and games.”
Volk, a sophomore midfielder, has seen his hard work pay off. He is tied for second on the team in goals with nine and has also dished out five assists. Rollins turned things around as well, losing only four more games after an 0-3 start to the year. The Tars are 13-7 heading into the Sweet 16 showdown with Palm Beach Atlantic.
He came through with a hat trick in a victory over Florida Tech Sept. 26 and earned Sunshine State Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors. It served as motivation for him.
“Winning this award was very exciting for me,” Volk said. “The support I received from my family, teammates/friends, and coaches was unbelievable. It really motivated me to keep working hard.”
But the Tars still had their share of tough moments as a team. On Oct. 7, they lost 5-0 to Florida Southern. It was their sixth loss of the season.
“Every game after that was a “must-win” to have any chance of not only making it into the NCAA tournament, but the conference tournament,” Volk said. “Looking back at it now (after being crowned Conference Champions and currently in the Round of 16), I still can’t believe how far we have come. It really shows the character of this team. It’s a really young team, but we have a lot of heart and all get along and work hard for each other.”
On a personal level, Volk has lived up to the expectations on his shoulders. He noted that he is also tougher mentally than he was a season ago.
“Mental strength is one of the most overlooked aspects of soccer, but I believe its one of the most important,” Volk said. “Compared to last season, I feel much more confident on the ball and in front of goal. I realized that during games I shouldn’t worry about the many things I can’t control, and instead I needed to focus on the few things i can. The two things i can control are my attitude and my work ethic, and if these things are good, everything else will fall into place.”
Volk has made some great memories in his time at Rollins and has forged friendships that will last a lifetime. He has also learned to manage his time well to excel on the field and in the classroom.
As for the NCAA tournament, the experience is one he won’t forget.
“Playing in the NCAA Tournament is an amazing experience,” Volk said. “I know that even making it into the NCAA Tournament is a very difficult feat to accomplish. It’s a pretty cool feeling knowing that you’re one of only 16 Division II teams in the Nation still having practice and preparing for games. As much as i would like to sit back and congratulate ourselves for making it this far, i know that we shouldn’t be content with just making it to the Round of 16. We need to continue to work hard and not be happy until we have that NCAA Division II National Tournament Trophy.”