When Maryland Eastern Shore volleyball player Shanti Ramdeen and her teammates — along with some other student-athletes — were summoned to the school’s athletic complex for an announcement last week, no one was certain what was about to happen.
Ramdeen, a junior middle from Austin, Texas, said they were just told to show up.
“When we got there, we were pretty confused as to what was going on,” she said. “When the news broke, there were gasps. I know a lot of my teammates were … everybody just got loud. My teammates were really excited.”
One of her teammates, she said, let out an audible — and loud — “Wow!”
The UMES program, which will begin play in the Northeast Conference in the 2025-26 season, was one of two public universities to announce the addition of men’s volleyball within a one-week span. Northern Kentucky followed. The Norse also will begin playing in 2025-26, and this marked the first time in more than two decades that public universities added men’s volleyball.
UMES made further history by becoming the first Division I historically Black college (HBCU) to add men’s volleyball.
Wade Garard was at UMES to hear the gasps and the “wows” from the assembled students for the announcement. He called it the coolest part of the event. And Garard’s organization, First Point Volleyball, played no small part in helping both of the new programs get off the ground.
When First Point Volleyball launched seven years ago, its stated mission was to grow opportunities in the sport for males at all levels. Since First Point’s inception in 2016, 10 states have sanctioned boys high school volleyball, and 40 college men’s programs have been started, with UMES and NKU being the latest.
Helping grow the game for minority males has been another key part of First Point’s mission. To that end, in 2019, First Point gave $600,000 and USA Volleyball $400,000 for the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to add six men’s volleyball programs: Central State, Edward Waters, Fort Valley State, Benedict, Kentucky State and Morehouse.
All are historically Black schools.
Maryland Eastern Shore received a $250,000 grant: $100,000 from USA Volleyball and $150,000 from First Point. Donors such as East Coast Volleyball also…