While it is easy to get caught up with the hype and glamour of last year’s finish, the fact of the matter is it’s a new season, which means Coach Charlie Sullivan and the Springfield College men’s volleyball team will look to take on a new challenge – defending their National Championship title.
“The most important factor this season is the understanding of our goals set as a team, and how we are going to accomplish them,” assistant coach Sam Zapatka determinedly stated. “We all must understand that last year means nothing this year. We still have to give 100 percent at everything we do in practice and in the weight room.”
The team lost only one senior from last year’s squad in Jeff Gutmann, and has 15 returning players, six starters and a libero. This includes 2012 NCAA Tournament MVP Mike Pelletier, who was featured in Sports Illustrated “Faces in the Crowd,” second-year outside hitter Angel Perez, senior middle blocker Greg Falcone, senior opposite hitter Alistair Matthews, sophomore setter Keaton Pieper, and last but not least, junior libero Nick Ferry.
The camaraderie and chemistry these players share is special, but the knowledge of recognizing each specific role on the team is what makes this team dominant.
“Being an experienced group will benefit us greatly this year,” Falcone said. “We know that as long as we stick to our team philosophy of being process-oriented and remain as the same cohesive group we were last year, then good things [will] happen. We are all excited to continue to rewrite the history books by taking each match one rally at a time.”
The luxury in obtaining the same players as the previous year lets the first-year players transition quickly and smoothly. If everything goes as planned, the Pride could be looking at another deep team. Additionally, the seniors will have a comfortable feeling when passing the torch at the end of the year.
“The freshmen are adjusting quickly and understanding that each player has an important role to make everyone else around them better, including themselves,” Zapatka added.
After an incredible 33-5 record, losing once to a Division III opponent, expectations will be extremely high for Sullivan’s team.
“The expectations we have for ourselves have always been higher than the expectations others put on us, so our class [has] done a great job of enjoying the moment and appreciating the journey,” Pelletier added.
To resume their success, the 2013 season presents Springfield with their first match against Cal Baptist on Jan. 19 at 4 p.m. in Irvine, Calif.