Cameroon native thrives for club volleyball

Judson Rodriguez

Carlson Ngong envisioned his spot on the Grand Valley State University club men’s volleyball team even before he left his native country of Cameroon in West Africa for Allendale last fall.

Apprehensive about playing a sport in college, Ngong was intrigued by the sport of volleyball, which was completely new to him. He wondered if he could play and if he would be able to contribute to the team’s success. Little did he know, he was exactly what GVSU was looking for in a student athlete.

“Before leaving Cameroon for Grand Valley I contacted coach (Todd Allen) to let him know I would like to join the team,” Ngong said. “He was so nice to me that when I got to GVSU one of the first places I tried to locate was the gym.”

Assistant coach Mike Lozier said that the team has benefited from Ngong’s presence this year. Lozier said his combination of athletic ability and willingness to learn are exactly what the coaches want from a new player.

“The guy can just jump out of the building.” Lozier said,” He’s up there hitting and he is literally head and shoulders above the guys on the other team — it’s unreal.”

Ngong’s natural athletic ability and his desire to get better have propelled him to a starting spot on the men’s ‘A’ team. Playing the role of right side hitter, Ngong has found his place on the team and feels like he’s contributing solidly as he continues to progress in a sport that is so new to him.

“I look forward to working on basics, which are the most important, and sometimes I neglect them in my passing and setting,” Ngong said.

There have been some adjustments for Ngong along the way, which have made his experience on the team difficult at times, but interesting.

“Carlson lives in Holland so getting to matches can be difficult for him.” Lozier said, “Coach Allen picked him up at 5:30 a.m. so he could make it to the match.”

Team president Mike Marcineak was one of the first guys on the team to meet Ngong. They met that first day Ngong wandered into the gym and Marcineak introduced him to the world of men’s volleyball.

Realistically, Ngong isn’t at much more of a disadvantage than his American counterparts. Most of the team is made up of players who have not played organized volleyball before in their lives. Marcineak only noted two players who had played club volleyball prior to coming to GVSU.

“I don’t think that learning the game has been too hard for him.” Lozier said. “His athletic ability makes up for a lot of the technical faults in his game and his willingness to listen and be coached has made him into a good player for us.”

The team traveled to Adrian College this past weekend, winning their match against Adrian in two games. Ngong made the trip with the team and experienced an American first — a Wendy’s cheeseburger.

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