Photos courtesy of Hilary Girard and SC men’s volleyball
It is a proven verity that first-year player Angel Perez has been sensational this season with the men’s volleyball team. What is not as well known is where his motivation to become successful on the court comes from.
In 2011, Perez was told by many citizens of Puerto Rico that he would not be guaranteed a spot on their national team. The excuse was his height, but those who questioned his size certainly underestimated his talent.
“People told me I have a skill, but at the same [time] I was too tiny at 6-feet-1-inch to have an opportunity,” the Naranjito native said. “I made the team. It was not a conflict for me. It was my dream to make it, and I believed in myself.”
Perez’s success did not just include making the team. He also went on to win an award in an Argentinian invitational tournament and capturing a gold medal.
His volleyball achievements began to pile up when he was only 7-years-old.
Over the course of a decade, he was a part of Envol, Puerto Rico Junior Olympic team.
Throughout those years, he was taught how to play volleyball from his father, Gilbert Perez. His father’s passion for the sport is drawn from his playing days at the University of Puerto Rico.
His father’s presence encouraged Perez to develop a leadership mindset.
“I like to be a leader on and off the court,” the son of Myrna Rivera and Gilbert Perez said with emphasis. “I was raised to be a leader. I think any player needs to have a leadership quality to have success.”
Perez plays vicariously for his father, who had a career-ending injury which he suffered at UPR. He spoke highly of his father, whose leadership qualities were passed down to him.
“My dad always inspired me since childhood,” said Perez. “He always said that discipline and effort is the most important thing to succeed in life.”
Perez’s father used a variety of inspirational quotes to keep his son motivated.
“One of the quotes he always told me is from Michael Jordan: ‘I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed,’” said Perez.
However, he hopes that through his time on Alden Street he can achieve success on an off the floor.
“I want to win a national championship, but my main priority is to graduate,” said Perez. “That is why I am here. I want to be a student first and then be a volleyball player.”
After observing Perez for the first time at a volleyball match, Springfield men’s volleyball head coach Charlie Sullivan was happy with what he saw in Perez.
“We thought he was a fantastic volleyball player with a lot of natural abilities; that’s what was really exciting about him,” the 14th-year coach said. “He has fundamentals that he was born with, and his level of play is solid.”
The performance of this year’s Springfield men’s volleyball team has been tremendous. The Pride broke out after a 0-3 start to have a current record of 14-5. Perez has been much involved with the team’s victories, recording 114 kills with a .297 kill percentage, 23 blocks and 63 digs.
His dominant performance at the net has stemmed from his hard work, confidence, great timing and anticipation.
“Angel is a great teammate, a very hard worker and an all-around player,” said fellow frontline player Greg Falcone. “He is very good at taking what the defense gives him. His positive attitude is going to make himself and the team better throughout the season.”
Earlier this year, Perez earned Morgan Classic Most Valuable Player honors, as well as being selected as the AVCA Division III Men’s Player of the Week. In Perez’s mind, there is still room for improvement by the end of the season.
“I want to get better every practice and work hard to help reach our goal,” the outside hitter said.
His motivation shows it has paid off as the Pride have won two straight after having a 10-game winning streak snapped against Juniata on Feb. 25.
Springfield has two months remaining on the season and are back in action Saturday night on the road at Baruch.
Mark Loiselle may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org