The Erskine College men’s volleyball team faces 2010 national champion Stanford in an NCAA tournament “play-in” match tonight in Chicago.
But the Fleet’s season is already a success.
Erskine, in its second year, won the Conference Carolinas regular-season and tournament crowns.
And, I’m sure the team is a hit with the fans (I mean, what college team offers a free dinner to fans who attend its conference tournament final? Hint: It was Erskine).
A feast, followed by a fiesta for the fans and players to enjoy.


But this chance to reach the NCAA tournament did not happen overnight. It just seems it did.
Erskine coach Derek Schmitt, who previously was an assistant women’s volleyball coach at Clemson, had to recruit.
And before he had to recruit, he had to study what kind of players he might get.
So much rides on the line between talent and and performance.
Sometimes, a player’s potential is realized. Other times, it isn’t.
But the proof of Schmitt’s recruiting success, so far, is revealed in the following: in each of Schmitt’s two seasons, Erskine has produced the conference’s freshman of the year (Roberto Perez Vargas, this season; Mike Kawa in 2013).
Also this year, Mike Michelau was first-team all-conference, and Kawa, Vargas and Corey Marks were second team.
After Schmitt’s team went 13-16 last year, Michelau gave his team an even more demanding schedule to start the season at Loyola-Chicago, which is now the NCAA tournament’s top seed. The result was a loss.
Erskine then faced Lewis, and -- after being shut out by Loyola -- won a set before falling again. The Fleet went on to lose against Penn State, and a couple of five-set matches against Pfeiffer and Mount Olive. 
But the team’s growth did not develop just on the court. After a couple matches, combined with a mission trip, in the Los Angeles area, the Fleet came back home.
And since the loss against Pfeiffer, the Fleet have won six matches in a row.
It remains to be seen how Erskine does against Stanford (NCAA Divisions I and II are combined in men’s volleyball). Things appear to be a daunting task for the Fleet.
That’s beside the point, though, when you remember Erskine is a second-year program.
Schmitt appears to have an eye for what it takes to build a quality program. And his most experienced players are just sophomores.
This is a start.
It’s more than just a start, though.
It’s a success.

Chancey is sports editor at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 223-1813; e-mail schancey@indexjournal.com or follow him on Twitter @IJSCOTTCHANCEY. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.