SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – For the majority of the sport’s existence, men’s volleyball has been a worldwide game with an international attraction. Professional athletes overseas are compensated well – in the hundreds of thousands for some of the top players – but here in the United States, the professional ranks have left lovers of the sport wanting more. New Jersey City University men’s volleyball head coach Carlo Edra is one of the main men trying to change that.
As a founding member of the National Volleyball Association (NVA), Edra has teamed up with a group of like-minded individuals in order to get the NVA off the ground and now soaring to new heights. Featuring 12 professional teams, players and coaches gather in San Bernardino several times throughout the summer to play countless matches during the regular season, all to qualify for the eight-team playoff, which will take place this weekend, Friday-Sunday, August 5- 8, at the Pearce Sports Center. For the first time in the NVA’s history, this playoff tournament will now be broadcast fully on ESPN3.
“I think [this exposure] gives youth volleyball players in the US something to strive for,” said Edra. “Now that we have professional men’s volleyball being played nationally on ESPN3, this is just huge for the country as a whole. Now there is an attainable goal in their own backyard instead of leaving the country to play professionally.”
Edra, the head coach of New Jersey Freedom, has led his squad to a first-place finish in the regular-season standings with a perfect 10-0 record as they head into the playoff tournament.
- The four quarterfinal matches take place on Friday at 12:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm ET.
- Then on Saturday, the two semifinal matches take place at 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm ET.
- Following that on Sunday will be the third-place match (2:00 pm ET) and championship match (5:00 pm ET).
For reference, ESPN3 is available free to all viewers, separate from any ESPN+ subscriptions.
“While it’s nice to go undefeated during the regular season, it really doesn’t mean anything unless we finish the job,” continued Edra. “We could either be the undefeated Miami Dolphins, or the New England Patriots, who were undefeated but then lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.”
The NVA also does not discriminate on the level of experience its athletes have when entering the league. Although the majority of the players come from Division I pedigree, as well as being some of the best players around the world on various international professional teams, Edra has approached it a different way. The NVA All-Star Coach’s NJ Freedom roster boasts 14 players, nine of which competed collegiately at the Division III level. That puts the Freedom by far on top in terms of the amount of Division III players.
“We play with a chip on our shoulders and that is part of the reason we have success,” said Edra. “We use the moniker WhyD3 [the popular theme among NCAA Division III athletics] and it just shows that Division III volleyball players can compete on a National stage with some of the best players in the world.”
One of those players in the NVA is a former NJCU standout Jonathan Andrews (North Bergen, NJ/North Bergen), who is currently getting ready to suit up for the Orlando Southern Exposure, one of the eight teams to qualify for the NVA playoffs. Andrews, a two-time First Team All-Skyline Conference and All-New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) selection – had his best-career season in 2022 with the Gothic Knights and parlayed that into a spot with Orlando as a professional. Additionally, NJ Freedom is owned and operated by former NJCU standout Justin Beaumont. Another NJCU contributor to the NVA is Ira Thor. The long-time NJCU community member is one of the three primary broadcasters with the NVA and helped put in the legwork in order for the league to make its ESPN3 debut this weekend.
“I think this is validation. When we started this journey, naysayers and doubters said it would not work,” said Edra on the formation of the NVA in its early stages. “Now that we are airing on ESPN3, it shows that all the hard work has been worth it.”