PVL Features Day 1

June 29, 2013, 8:41 p.m. (ET)

Set in Motion: The Success of Team Florida Wave

By Matt Bieker for USA Volleyball

RENO, Nev. (June 29, 2013) - After Team Florida Wave’s victory over Team Western Empire earlier today in the inaugural Premier Volleyball League (PVL) championship being held at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, coach Steve Benson spoke about the history of the team and the attitude that won them the Men’s Open Division of the 2013 USAV Volleyball Open National Championships in May.

After coaching for over 20 years in both men’s and women’s collegiate and club teams, as well as various camps and all-star teams, Benson moved to Florida two years ago for a coaching opportunity. After initial talks with PVL President Steve Bishop, Benson found himself in a position to organize a team that included the best of the many talented players in the Florida Region.

“The team that I put together is really a lot of the best guys in the state of Florida. In a sense, playing against ourselves was sometimes the best competition,” Benson said.

The Wave’s search for strong competition led them to the 2013 USA Volleyball Open National Championships and its Men’s Open Division, which Benson intended to use as a good training exercise for his team. Training that paid off handsomely, however, when the Florida Wave went on to win the championship with setter Mike Iandolo being named most valuable player.

“The guys really came together as a team,” Benson said. “They did really well to reach a goal that we really didn’t set for ourselves. Our goal was to get better and be a team, and winning was just a phenomenal experience for all involved.”

Benson knows that coming to the PVL tournament as the current Men’s Open Division champion automatically makes the Florida Wave a target, and Benson knows it. While every team has come to win, Benson stated that his ultimate goal is to see his players improve, and up the talent quotient on his already impressive team.

“Any type of pro sport—you always have people pushing you from below,” Benson said. “They want to be here, they want this experience, and we want to create that kind of environment where our guys are working out, they’re moving, they’re getting better, they’re playing at a higher level.”

Benson hopes that his team’s previous victory and their performance in this tournament will serve as an inspiration to young men and women athletes who might believe that their careers will end after college.

Coach Benson and the Florida Wave have a clear sense of purpose, and don’t take any of their competition lightly, but the kind of talent exhibited by these 11 players is formidable to say the least.

The Past, Present and Future of the PVL with Steve Bishop
By Matt Bieker for USA Volleyball

RENO, Nev. (June 29, 2013) - Today marked the first day of play for the 2013 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) Men’s Championship tournament taking place at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nev. With five teams from all over the United States competing, PVL President Steve Bishop explains what it took to get them here and his hopes for the future of the league.

“I want to give a lot of credit to USA Volleyball—their event staff has been very cooperative and helpful in making this come to fruition,” Bishop said. “If anything was a hurdle, it was the respective teams raising the appropriate amount of money to get here.”

Bishop is a member of the PVL board of directors as the president of the league and also executive director of the Florida Region. Bishop believes that the investments of these teams, both in time and money, will pay off big when more spectators and athletes begin to see the kinds of opportunities offered by the PVL - especially in a country where many post-collegiate volleyball players must travel abroad for career prospects.

“In the USA, there is nothing,” Bishop said. “They finish their collegiate careers and if they want to play at the next level, they have to go overseas and try to get placed on a team. The importance of it [the league], in our opinion, is that in spite of all of our Olympic success we have no professional indoor league … we created it because we wanted to create opportunities here in the U.S.”

Bishop is excited to see the league grow and gain notoriety on a national level, stating that more teams from different regions have given verbal confirmation to the PVL for next year. Aspirations for the future of the league are high, and Bishop is confident that they will reach their initial goal of 10 competing teams by the third year. With the momentum from this weekend’s tournament, Bishop says that the next steps are already in motion.

“The next step for us is our board of directors will meet in October and we’ll start to work on our schedule for next year,” Bishop said. “We will work on our marketing plan and see what additional funding and partnerships are available for us to roll this out next year at a little bit higher profile.”

The PVL marks a promising opportunity for players and fans alike to showcase their passion and energy for this sport in a way that has been severely limited in the US. Steve Bishop, the board of directors, and the coaches and players all have faith in the future of the league, and have high expectations of what’s to come.

MVP: Mike Iandolo

By Matt Bieker for USA Volleyball

Name: Mike Iandolo
Age: 26
Team: Florida Wave
Position: Setter

At 6-7, Mike Iandolo cuts a powerful figure and his aggressive performance on the court earned him the title of most valuable player in the Men’s Open Division of the 2013 USA Volleyball Open National Championships after leading his Team Florida Wave to the title in May. An Orlando, Fla., native, Iandolo first began playing in the seventh grade when he had to decide between football and volleyball.

After playing in a club team in Orlando and varsity at his high school, he went on to the U.S. Youth National Training Team his senior year of high school, and then to Long Beach State University on a scholarship. During his two years at Long Beach State, he was also a part of the U.S. Men’s Junior National Volleyball Team. He then transferred to Lewis University where he was a member of its top 10 team.

“At that point I had been playing for 11 years,” says Iandolo, “I was kind of burnt out … I’ve been coaching since I graduated college. I went down and coached high school club, boys and girls.”

Iandolo became a part of the Florida Wave last year when he was coaching a club team with the Wave coach Steve Benson.

“We talked about it and we put a team together,” said Iandolo. “It was kind of like a half sponsor from the region, they didn’t fully get into it. It was like a test run. We came to the open and did OK, we finished middle of the pack.”

Upon his return, however, Florida Wave had been given a full sponsorship from the Florida Region and their bigger, more powerful team claimed first place in the 2013 Men’s Open. While Iandolo won MVP, he says that he was more excited about the opportunity to compete at such a high level in the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) and was little concerned with his accolades.

Iandolo’s primary motivation for being on the team is just being able to play, and believes the PVL is a great opportunity to do just that. “I think it’s awesome,” he says, “I think it should’ve been done years ago … we need to start doing something because we’re so far behind other countries when it comes to professional volleyball. It looks like it’s going in the right direction.”