Intramural teammates overcome odds

Published: May 5, 2016

AQUINAS PHOTO / CARMINE GERRITY-GEMEI FROM LEFT: Seniors, housemates and intramural champions Tomas Weldeghergis, Gregg Daley, John Lindgren and Josh Guardia pose at the piano on second floor DeNaples Wednesday.

FROM LEFT: Seniors, housemates and intramural champions Tomas Weldeghergis, Gregg Daley, John Lindgren and Josh Guardia pose at the piano on second floor DeNaples Wednesday.

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Three University students lost in intramural sports every season for four years.

Until they won two championships in two days this semester.

Housemates Gregg Daley, John Lindgren and Tomas Weldeghergis teamed up to win the volleyball championship April 26 and the “C” League men’s basketball championship in overtime April 28.

To capture his feelings on winning the two championships after years of disappointment, Daley used a dessert reference.

“After putting all the work in day-in and day-out for intramurals for four years, it definitely felt good to get the cherry on top of the sundae,” Daley said. “Each year I was putting down a scoop of ice cream and finally I got to the whipped cream and the cherry in the same week.”

Many University students criticized the trio’s basketball team’s drop from the “B” League last season to the less-competitive “C” League this season. Despite this, Lindgren said the championship was just as sweet.

“This year we came through. We dropped down to the ‘C’ League. Some people say that was a little low for us, but I say we did our best,” Lindgren said. “And we got the shirts for ya.”

The trio’s volleyball team went 11-0 and its basketball team finished 9-1. Counting both teams, they won 95 percent of their games. That is a better winning percentage than the Golden State Warriors this year, and they set an NBA record by winning 73 out of 82 games.

But it was not always whipped cream and cherries for this bunch of intramural athletes.

Before their magical week, their teams lost in every intramural sport they played including flag football, basketball, soccer, volleyball and softball.

As first-years, the trio seemed unlikely to ever win an intramural championship.

Lindgren said their basketball and flag football teams were “disastrous” as first-years.

Then fall semester sophomore year, Weldeghergis and Daley began playing volleyball. They did not win a single game that season.

Weldeghergis compared his sophomore volleyball team’s chance at a championship with the championship odds of underdog professional soccer team Leicester City, which won the English Premier League Monday.

“For the volleyball team, when we first started I would’ve given us 5,000-to-1 odds to win it,” Weldeghergis said.

However, the volleyball court had not yet been graced with Lindgren’s presence.

Weldeghergis and Daley asked Lindgren to join their volleyball team for the spring season their sophomore year. That’s when everything changed.

Daley said Lindgren was “the final piece” the team needed and Weldeghergis said it was “game on” after adding Lindgren.

Lindgren, however, was a bit more humble about how he joined the volleyball team.

“You guys need a body, I have a body, I can stand there,” Lindgren said. “Little did I know that I could jump, bump, set and spike.”

After increased success sophomore and junior year and a heart-breaking first semester of senior year, the trio was determined to win its first championship this semester.

Weldeghergis was confident about the teams’ chances in both basketball and volleyball.

In February, he told intramural sports recreation assistant Mike Malos that both teams would win it all.

And they did.

The volleyball team was fueled by its loss in the semifinals in the fall season. They only lost one set the entire spring.

Before the championship game, however, the team was worried because Daley fell ill with a 103 degree fever that day.

“If it was 102 I would’ve been in,” Daley said.

The team powered through the adversity.

During the final in the Byron Recreation Complex, the volleyball team used a 7-point run in the first set and an 11-point run in the second set to take home the championship.

Two days later, the trio faced its biggest challenge yet when the “C” League basketball championship game headed into overtime.

Sidelined with a nagging ankle injury, player-coach Weldeghergis instructed Lindgren and fellow star guard Mark Zipagan to take control in the overtime. Zipagan and Lindgren each hit a three-pointer to start the overtime, and the team kept the momentum going to win title.

The trio had accomplished something no one thought possible. Two intramural championships in two days.

The on-court leader Lindgren mainly credited the basketball team’s success to the outstanding inside play of the team’s three-pronged onslaught of big men. The 6-foot-4-inch rebound-grabbing, shot-swatting and layup-making behemoths Chris “CKs” Keller, Mike Wallace and Jon Stuart consistently overmatched opponents.

Lindgren also noted Daley, Neil Jacobsen and Chris Dacosta’s hustle and defensive determination and Donald Erdey’s ability to battle through injury as important factors in the team’s overall chemistry.

Assistant basketball coach Josh Guardia, Weldeghergis’ right-hand man this season, constantly kept his team motivated from the sideline.

“Do this for the boys, it’s your last year,” Guardia said he would remind his guys. “And that would push them.”
Three guys, two championships, two days, four years.

Weldeghergis reflected on his University intramural career and his final success with his teammates, housemates and friends.

“How much we improved was awesome,” Weldeghergis said. “And playing with each other and getting to know each other.”

Lindgren felt similarly to his housemate.

“It felt good to finally go out on top,” Lindgren said. “Especially with all my friends.”

After graduation, friends of the trio will surely hear Weldeghergis tell this tale of friendship and team success again and again.

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One Response to Intramural teammates overcome odds

  1. Mike Gemei Reply

    May 5, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Great example of how not giving up can eventually lead to success…very inspiring and happy story

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