What do you get when you cross a star volleyball player, a businessman, and a jazz trombonist? Junior William Ragland — who has been making waves this semester both on and off the court.
Ragland transferred to EMU last year from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin in part because he knew several of his current teammates from Richmond club play in high school. “If it was up to me, I’d be in California right now for school,” said Ragland. “[But] I have a lot of fun here. They’re a great group of people … the team is all super chill and super cool about everything.”
The “team” in question is the resurgent EMU Men’s Volleyball team, which has won 20 regular season games for the first time in ten years and currently sits at third place in the CVC standings.
Two weeks ago, Ragland was named the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) National Player of the Week, only the third such award in program history. Ragland has notched 249 kills on the season behind only First-year Josh Elmore and Junior Tim Callahan, and 40 service aces, good for second overall in the Continental Volleyball Conference (CVC). His team-leading hitting .297 has almost doubled last year’s .168.
“Even though he hasn’t received credit for this, his passing has also been rock solid for us this season, which is a critical improvement,” said Men’s Volleyball coach Ross Madden. “Without a good enough pass, Christian [Taylor] can’t set the middle and our whole offense becomes easy to read.”
“When Will is turned on, it’s hard to stop him,” said Elmore, another outside hitter and current kills leader for the Royals. “[He’s] as fundamentally sound as it gets.”
“Will [Ragland] is special to me because of the way he carries us through the end of big matches,” said Madden. “He put himself in the national spotlight earning the AVCA national player of the week with his consistent swings.” Among others, some of the words Madden used to describe Ragland included “joyful,” “consistent,” “friendly,” “explosive,” and “intense.”
Ragland’s interests are not restrained just to sports and volleyball, however. Ragland is also the lead trombonist for EMU Jazz, the 17-member student jazz ensemble on campus.
“I would describe Will as being active, genuine, and just an all around laid back kind of guy,” said First-year Josh Ayers, who is a member of EMU Jazz along with Ragland. “Will [Ragland] is unique in that he participates in both music and sports and is able to maintain a job, school, and those extracurriculars in a healthy balance … He brings qualities of someone who does his job and does it well.”
Making music has been an important part of Ragland’s life since he chose to attend a high school focused on music programming. At present, his involvement in EMU’s music programs includes composition lessons and a music minor.
“I really enjoy recording,” said Ragland. “It’s just a lot of fun. I’d like to work more on the business side, marketing and such, trying to get people’s names out there.”
“I’m proud to coach such a fine young man and I believe his hardworking, aggressive attitude will help him and us achieve great success this year, next year, and beyond,” said Madden.
Ragland and the Royals will wrap up the regular season on April 8 at the Stevenson Tri-Match in Owings Mills, Maryland before CVC tournament play begins on Friday, April 14.