No dig’gity, volleyball heads to UVC championships at No. 1

Freshman Kevin Ros bumps ball in recent home match against New York University on March 11. The squad will face Hunter College on Saturday, April 8 at 11 a.m in Kenyon Hall. / Courtesy of Carlisle Stockton

With its two wins this weekend against the Penn State-Behrend University (PSUB) Lions and the Bard College Raptors, the Vassar men’s volleyball team extended its winning streak to 13 games and secured the Regular Season UVC title with an 8-0 finish in conference play.

The Brewers breezed passed Penn State-Behrend in the first two sets with scores of 25-11 and 25-19. However, the Lions gave the Brewers a run for their money in the third set. The Brewers were down 24-22 but were able to regain the lead with three straight kills from freshman Yoni Auerbach. Eventually, they were able to avoid a fourth set and pull through in with a final score of 29-27.

Vassar caused PSUB to walk away with a negative hitting percentage due to the Brewers impressive 13 blocks. Senior captain Christian Lizana put up 12 kills, 15 digs and two assisted blocks to lead the squad.

In their second contest of the day, Vassar surpassed Bard in three sets to secure the victory. VC was able to use its diverse offense to their advantage, as all but one player had at least one kill in the match versus the Raptors. Lizana put up eight kills and Auerbach put up seven kills and seven digs.

Meanwhile, senior captain Trey Cimorelli ended with a team-high nine digs and freshman Kevin Ros had eight digs and six kills. Sophomore Daniel Halberg dished out an impressive 23 assists, three assisted blocks and seven digs.

Lizana has been a solid player in his senior season. He had two productive games this past weekend and has fulfilled his role as captain with ease. Lizana is focusing on making sure that enthusiasm stays high and the team keeps their goals in mind.

“I think all year one of my responsibilities is to make sure that everyone remains level headed but also excited. Just because we were able to finish out the regular season strong with undefeated conference play doesn’t mean that come tournament time we can expect to coast right through,” explained Lizana. “We can see our run end quickly if we choose to think that we are untouchable. Every game will be a battle and we need to practice and prepare with that mindset.”

While the team has influential captions, Head Coach Richard Gary is at the reins of this impressive team. Despite this season being his first at Vassar, Coach Gary has significantly guided the Brewers’ path to success. Lizana attributes much of their success this season to the impact Coach Gary has had on the team. Lizana shared, “His understanding of the game and being able to show us the small things that make a big difference, as well as his passion and belief in us, has made us a stronger and more developed team.”

Alternatively, Coach Gary attributes much of the team’s success to the widespread talent on the squad. “Frankly, we wouldn’t be in this position if EVERY player hadn’t stepped up at some point this season. It’s been incredibly gratifying to watch this group gel into a great team, and I could give you an hour long description of each player’s contributions,” Coach Gary noted.

However, Coach Gary believes he would be remiss if he did not mention the impact that the seniors have had on the team this year. Coach Gary explains that the seniors have helped foster a great environment for the team to improve in every practice and every match.

“[This leadership] starts with Trey, Quinn and Christian, who exemplify that ethos, and has trickled down through every player on the team. Even when someone is injured or isn’t on the court during a match, they find a way to contribute with an observation, some tension breaking joke, or simply by being vocally supportive of the current task. It makes it very easy to work with the guys to find ways to improve, ” said Coach Gary.

In terms of how the team is preparing for next weekend, Lizana wants to ensure that everyone is in the best possible shape to play. “We have a bunch of players all battling the sore shoulders and knees that kick in at this point in the season, so we will be managing jumps and swings if we can,” Lizana mentioned.

However, the team still needs to get in game mode and prepare for the upcoming weekend. “For these last two games though, our Senior Day, I think we really want to finish strong. Hunter is a good team that has knocked off some quality opponents already this year, so we have to take these final matches seriously.” Lizana continued, “Coach Gary has a saying that we should aim to get 2 percent better each day, and if we do that we will go all the way. Our senior day games are a chance to touch up some things before the conference tournament and bring in great momentum.”

Lizana emphasizes the teams improvement and newfound confidence as they head into playoffs. He stated, “In my time here we had never beaten teams like New Paltz or Stevens, so that’s always motivation when playing those teams but we were very aware of our talent and potential and we aim every game to play like we know we are capable.”

One player that has contributed to Vassar’s success is Ros. In his freshman campaign, Ros has 20 kills on the season to go along with 20 aces. Six of those kills and eight digs came from the match against Bard last weekend.

When reflecting on the season, Ros is incredibly appreciative of the leadership of the upperclassmen. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without our captains/upperclassmen,” Ros said. “They are great role models during games, practices and off the court. From helping the freshmen transition onto a new team to serving in the fifth set, they are always there to help and offer advice.”

Ros is hopeful to keep a similar team dynamic in the future. “Hopefully, in the next couple of years, I’ll be able to take what I’ve learned from them and have such a great effect on the then-underclassmen, as they’ve affected me,” he noted.

With their two wins this past weekend, the Vassar men’s volleyball squad will head into the UVC tournament as the No. 1 seed. On April 14, they will match up against the winner of the No. 4 seed New Paltz and No. 5 seed MIT at home. To finish out the bracket, the No. 2 seed is NYU, while Stevens Institute of Technology secured the No. 3 seed and Nazareth College sits at the No. 6 seed.

The squad also has their sights set on an NCAA tournament appearance, which would start on Thursday, April 13 and continue to the final, which would take place on Saturday, April 15.

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