Super Stars – The Graduating Seniors Of The Men’s Volleyball Team

April 25, 2017

As the Stars achieve their first conference championship in program history, The Dominican Star interviewed the team’s graduating seniors who made up the inaugural team as freshmen four years ago.

Question #1: Over the past four years, what has been your fondest volleyball memory at DU and why? Your fondest non-volleyball memory at DU?
Question #2: What does this season’s team and success mean to you?
Question #3: How has the program grown over the past four years?
Question #4: How have you grown as a player and as a person over the past four years?

Alex Coyne
1. Over the past four years my fondest memory of volleyball would have to be a tie between beating Carthage this year as well as winning our conference tournament. Both experiences were challenges we have worked for 4 years to overcome. Both matches were played with a high level of intensity both physically and mentally from both teams and these are the most fun matches to be a part of. It reminds you why we love the game as much as we do and why we work as hard as we do day in and day out.

My fondest non-volleyball memory would have to be Casino nights at DU. This event brings the whole community together to have some nice and clean family fun. We unfortunately missed two out of the four years because of volleyball but the two times I attended was a blast. I was not lucky enough to win any of the raffles but the fun that was shared with teammates and friends at the event was well worth it.

2. This seasons success means everything to me. As one of the leaders on the team it has always been a goal to guide the team to a conference championship and an NCAA tournament birth. With the success, we have generated more awareness for volleyball in the Midwest as well as Illinois. Division 3 volleyball is usually East Coast dominated so this success has put Dominican Volleyball on the map and has challenged the East Coast teams to compete with us. Our team pushes each other at every practice and to see this success generated means that I have done what I set out to do throughout the 4 years and that is to makes this team the best it can. We have always hated the term potential and how we could be a good team if we worked hard enough. Well we have put in the work and we are now reaping the rewards of reaching the potential we set for ourselves and excelling past it.

3. This program has grown exponentially over the past 4 years. We started out at 18 scrawny guys who could compete with the best teams but we could never overcome them. Four years ago, we did not know exactly what we were capable as a team. We always had goals to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament but we seemed to always fall just short. Since then we have built a tradition of success within the men’s volleyball community. We pride ourselves on being a family both on and off the court and the support and trust shown by all teammates has allowed us to become a team to be reckoned with.

4. Volleyball has shaped who I am as a person. It has given me the leadership skills I need to be successful in volleyball and in the real world post-graduation. It has taught me to be more confident and to never back down from a fight.  I honestly believe that I am the best person I could be because of Volleyball, and I owe it all to my teammates and the volleyball community. My teammates have supported me through everything situation and have given me the tools to grow. I owe my growth to my coach as well. Dan Ames has been a part of my volleyball career since I started out when I was 14 years old. He has challenges me athletically as well as personally to be the most successful player and person I could possibly be. I owe most of my success to Dan because he has invested so much into me. Dan has done more than any coach should or possibly could do for a player and for that I am forever grateful.

Although it is nice to talk about all the good memories and successes that I have had here at Dominican, we still have work at hand. Our season is not over and it will continue till we are hoisting that trophy above our heads next Sunday. 

Mason Solbrig
1. I would say that over the past four years, my favorite moment would have to be finally beating Carthage just a couple weeks ago. For all 4 years Carthage was always the biggest obstacle for us, and I think that win is a milestone for us as a program because there won’t be any intimidation going playing anyone anymore. Non-Volleyball wise, I would have to say I always enjoy when it warms up and the team gets to go and play some lawn games and just chill. Its the best thing to finally go outside and enjoy myself with my friends.

2. This team’s success this season means everything to me. It is the culmination of four years of getting up early for practice. lifts, and working hard on and off the court. Volleyball is the reason I came to Dominican, so to finally make it to the NCAA tournament my senior year, it couldn’t be any better *(except going the last couple years, lol).

3. I think now that the seniors and juniors have been here before, there is a good set of role models in place for freshman to emulate when they come in, that those in my class didn’t necessarily have. Overall, leadership, maturity, and a sense of a familial bond have grown between everyone on this team, especially those in the graduating class.

4. Freshman year I came in and expected to start because I had always been a starter and assumed my skill would be enough to take me far. This theory worked for freshman year, but sophomore year I was benched for a couple games. This lit a fire in me, and i fought back to the top that year. I continued this hard work through the next seasons, sometimes being benched here and there for similar reasons, but every time I just fought back a re-earned my spot. I think this sense of hard work and knowing that I can achieve what I want by just pushing as hard as I can will help me achieve anywhere in life, and I am very happy i have obtained this “skill”. Also, I have learned the importance of sleep.

David Demarco
1. My fondest memory of volleyball at DU is probably winning the conference tournament that week. Even though we were the favorites, not a single person took anything for granted and that was just the culmination (so far at least) of 4 years of hard work. The looks and smiles that my teammates had as we were celebrating is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. My fondest non-volleyball is just playing games in the quad with my teammate, like spike ball or football.

2. Honestly it’s hard to describe. We all knew that we were capable of a season like this, and it’s just amazing that we have finally put it all together, from start to finish.  I am incredibly proud because I think it shows just how much we have grown as players and as men.

3. This question is funny because I was looking at our roster pictures from freshman year and we look like little kids. Outside of the obvious physical differences, we have really embraced playing for each other. Before, we would play to win or because it was fun. But now we are truly playing for the brother next to us.

4. When I came in as a freshman, I don’t think I understood what it really meant to be a great teammate.  But as the years went on I learned that I shouldn’t play for myself, or to win, but play for the guy sitting on the bench that would give anything to be on the court and for my teammate next to me who would do anything for me.  Volleyball has helped me get and understanding that things are bigger than just me, and the success of my peers is the success of myself.

Michal Kawa
1. My favorite memory at DU is traveling with the team and playing games on have bus ride.

2. This season means a lot to me. Transferring from Erskine and being able to join the DU volleyball family has been awesome. We have had some great accomplishments this year and I am excited to continue this season with these guys.

3. The program has grown a lot just in the year that I have been here. We have grown close as a team and that has led to what we have been able to accomplish this year. With a big group of new people adding to the team, every single person has stepped up and filled the roles we needed them to.

4. Over this past year at DU I feel like I have grown a lot has a player and a teammate. Transitioning from rightside/middle to outside, a position I haven’t played in 4 years, has been tough, but my teammates and coaches have been very patient and I couldn’t be more grateful for that. This team has helped me be a better teammate just knowing that we are all here for each other no matter what role someone is in.

Brooks Nevrly
1. Even though it was the most recent, my favorite volleyball memory would be fellow senior captain Charlie Spry raising the conference tournament trophy and the team rushing us in celebration. After everything our senior class had worked for, it was amazing to see it finally pay off in something physical. That moment with my teammates was something that I will never forget and I owe all of the success and personal growth I personally have had to them.  As for not-volleyball related, just being around the guys every day creates great memories.  We are more than a family and we have differing personalities, but we somehow make it work.  It is amazing to see the development of my brothers every day and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for every single one of them

2. In the beginning of the year, I thought this was going to be like every other season I played and I did not want to change my mentality because it was my last year of playing. However, we have embraced a motto of “For the Boys” which explains why we are so close and our family mentality. After all the success we had, it obviously means a little more to me than my past season.  Despite the fact that we still have unfinished goals in Springfield, my teammates will always be my family.

3. The development of my family has been incredible over these four years. Our coach has the philosophy that he will make us better men, brothers, and husbands during the course of the time he has with us. It has been amazing to see people find their passions and want to explore aspects of life that they never thought were possible.  Overall, we have a special group and this program’s development, not only on the court, but as people will continue to define what the Dominican men’s volleyball team is all about.

4. Personally, I have seen my development as a leader come through. I always lead by example in which I let my play and work ethic speak for my leadership. However, I learned that I can have a special impact on my brothers as they look up to me.  I want to be a role model for future captains so the legacy of our program can continue to benefit not only on the court but in the Dominican community.

Joe Marchese
1. My favorite volleyball memory at DU would definitely be winning the conference championship, it is something that we have worked for the since day 1 and the feeling to have accomplished that and have all of the support from the entire school and community is surreal. My favorite memory not related to volleyball is deciding to join the nursing program. I have had some amazing clinical experiences so far and am excited to continue to expand my education in the field of nursing and be able to help people everyday.

2. This season means everything to me. I started playing volleyball when I was in 4th grade and it is all a dream come true to be able to be a part of starting a program from the ground up and ending my collegiate career with such a successful season. I can’t put into words how excited I am for the upcoming NCAA playoffs.

3. The program has truly grown in every aspect over the past 4 years. We have grown physically becoming bigger and stronger than many of our opponents, fine tuned or skills, as well as growing as a family. We all communicate very well together and that shows on and off the court. We play and compete for each other and know that every single person on the team is bought in and is there for each other no matter what just like a family.

4. As a player and a person, I have grown a lot over the 4 years while being a part of this team. I have learned countless life skills that I will continue to use throughout my entire life. A few of these skills include time management, communicating with a purpose, the importance of teamwork, knowing your role and always working hard no matter what the circumstances are.

Charles Spry
1. To pick a single memory that I would consider my favorite is very difficult, almost impossible, but if I were to pick I would have to say that my most memorable moment was my junior year against Benedictine. I came in as a blocking sub at match point and managed to have one of the biggest blocks of my college career, but besides the volleyball was the personal event that was going to happen in Dan’s life after the game. Dan would rush from our game to get to the airport where he headed to California to propose to his soon to be wife. I remember this because it truly ties in the feeling of family that our team has. Every event that we share as a is important and we all care on a deeper level for each other than I ever thought was possible for a group of college men.

2. This season has become, in many ways, the definition of our team. Four years ago I sat in Dan’s office as a freshman having a hypothetical question about competing for a national championship our senior year. Four years ago it was all an idea but to be able to watch and be part of that incredible journey has been incredible. So in many ways, this season is what has defined much of my entire college career. I cannot wait to head out east and change the minds of anyone has doubted us.

3. Growth alone does not really describe what I have witnessed in my four years at Dominican. I have seen some of my teammates mature as people further than I ever thought they would. In many ways, the seniors that will be leaving this program have managed to take advantage of the tools that this incredible University has to offer and in the end have become the best men that we could be. I look forward to seeing where this program is in four years. Exponential growth is the only way that I can describe this group of seniors and if that continues in the program I can only imagine how great this team will be in every aspect.

4. My four years at Dominican have made me not only a much better volleyball player but they have made me someone who feels comfortable leading a team in the business world. My path on this team started with me being a first string player for my freshman year and then being a leader from off of the court the next three. As much as I would like to be able to be one of the top contributors on the court I have been able to discover how you can inspire and lead from a distance. This group of guys has shown me so many things and I believe that I will be family with all of them for the rest of my life.

Luke Spicer
1. My favorite volleyball memory has been this year, winning conference and the conference tournament for the first time in program history.  It is something that we have worked so hard for and we have always known we were capable.  Hopefully, this memory is second place in a week or two after winning the NCAA tournament.  My favorite non-volleyball memory is hard, there have been so many.  This is not a very specific instance, but just the community here is the best.  Dominican is a very connected place and I love that. 

2. This season has been so much fun, and is not over yet!  Being able to have our best year yet in the last year playing for the senior guys is what it’s all about.  We have made a focus of playing for each other and I contribute that to our success.  I get to play with a bunch of guys that are my family.

3. While I was not here for the inaugural year, the program has made leaps and bounds since my freshman year.  The talent level has increased each year and I believe the best is yet to come.  Doing our job in the offseason getting stronger, and always being ready to work in the gym is so important and it is something that the team has really taken to heart.  Coach Ames has provided us with so many tools to better ourselves throughout the year.  All of the success we are achieving now, is all because of Dan. 

4. When I came in, I was not exactly a volleyball player.  I had been playing since middle school but I was not refined, I was more of just an athlete.  Since coming here and working with the great coaching staff we have,  I have become a volleyball player.  Also mentally i was not nearly as strong as I am now.  Working with the older guys has shown me so many new perspectives  on how to handle different situations, I really look to them for advice and they have all made me a better player/person. 

Greg Vlassov
1. My favorite memory at DU volleyball wise would be winning our conference tournament and making the NCAA tournament. The other favorite memory would be walking through the school and having continuous support before games from the students, faculty and staff.

2. This season has meant a lot. It has been very long and challenging but very rewarding. This season is the product of all the hard work that our team has put in the past four years. We have set three goals and we are 2/3 there. There is still a lot of work to do and our job is not finished yet.

3. Our program has grown tremendously, going from a .500 team freshman year to where we are now and heading to the NCAA tournament is a huge accomplishment. To see the strong incoming freshman and increase in transfers shows that the team has created a strong foundation that people want to come and be apart of the family.

4. I believe as a player I have matured a lot and found a new level of volleyball to play at. Personally I found that working out and getting bigger and stronger has helped me reach the level of play that I am at now. The biggest growth has been with my teammates and practicing with them for four years. We are a family and rely on each other to push each other in practice everyday.

Adam Janusz
1. My favorite volleyball memory at Dominican is meeting a group of guys who I’ll play volleyball with for the rest of my life. Even now, during the summer we will spend hours on the beach playing sand volleyball with each other and go back out the next day. If it weren’t for the time we spend on the sand all summer I don’t know if our team would be where we’re at today. Non-volleyball related memory has to be moving in freshman year with a random roommate (the only random roommate combo on our volleyball team). Id say he’s one of my best friends now and we still (related to volleyball I guess) both play for the team here, hanging out most days of the week.

2. This season is our capstone. Each major has a capstone course. I don’t know if any of us are planning to play professionaly overseas. So, really this is our last run in high-level, organized team sports.

3. The program began by just trying to find our identity, just like any individual does when they come to college. Our whole group found an identity together, simultaneously. Our group identity established our team identity and will remain the team’s identity even after we graduate. We have outstanding seniors on this team, leaders on campus, we hold an unreal team GPA. We’ve grown into a respectable group of men, the same people who entered in as growing boys.

4. I’ve had my position changed twice since arriving at DU. It’s always been about what’s best for the team. I knew I could fill a different role in each assigned position. I’ve spent a lot of time on the beach. Like I said, I don’t think our team would be in our successful position today if we didn’t simply enjoy what we did enough to dedicate summer days to the craft. I know I wouldn’t be anywhere near the player I am without my friends, some sand, plus a net and ball.

Jeremy Royko
1. One of my favorite volleyball memories at Dominican would have to be last year when we swept #4 UC Santa Cruz on our home court. Every year we’ve always been very confident in ourselves as a team, but that was our first win over a top 5 opponent, and to do it in the Igini in front of a lot of fans was really special. For me, that win really helped solidify our belief that we were a team to be reckoned with. Off of the court, one of the funniest memories for me would be any of the numerous elevators that have gotten stuck because our team has over packed them. You’d think we would learn, but it got funnier almost every time!

2. This season means more than I could ever fully put into words. There has been so much blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into this team succeeding, and to see it finally pay off is more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. I, as well as the other seniors, came into Dominican with the ultimate goal of making and winning the national tournament our senior year. To have earned the right to compete for the national championship with my brothers is something I will never forget for the rest of my life.

3. In terms of skill, our team has gone from a scrappy group of freshman to a powerful and aggressive volleyball team. We’ve grown taller, bigger, and have some incredible depth that not many teams can say they have. What I believe matters more though is that we’ve grown together as a family. This family is bought in to our goal, and we’ve learned to push each other harder than most of our competition does. The growth and development of the maturity and mentality in this team is something I’m most proud of.

4. As a player I’ve grown a lot over the last four years. Through playing, coaching club, and just being around other incredible volleyball players, I’ve been able to help hone my skills and my overall understanding of the game. I am a much more physical player than I’ve ever been in my career. Mentally, I’ve matured a lot, and I owe a lot of that to my coaches and my team. I have an incredible support system in Dan and the guys, and they have helped me to get through some pretty difficult points in my life. I owe a lot to Dominican Volleyball, and I will always hold this family close to my heart.

Zach Sinn
I don’t know if it is possible for me to pick a favorite memory at Dominican, this school and this team have been great to me over the past four years, and I can honestly say coming here was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I don’t regret a single second of it. There are so many memories I could choose from, from our first win over a ranked team, beating Carthage for the first time, or winning the conference tournament last weekend. But as cliche as it sounds, it’s not possible for me to pick out a favorite, as basically every single moment has been as enjoyable as the last.

2. For me, this season really does mean a lot, it is by far the most meaningful volleyball I have ever played or been a part of. This is not just because of how far we have gone or how well we have been doing, but because I know that this is probably the last time I get to play the sport with some of my best friends, and I’m just enjoying every second of it. How well we are doing is just the cherry on top.

3. This program has underwent tremendous growth over these four years. We came as a group of 18 freshmen who were relatively clueless about most things. But volleyball has forced us to grow up and mature from the very beginning, and now we boast one of the most experienced teams in the country, both in terms of age and what we have been through.

4. As a player, I have also grown a lot. I’ve learned how to adapt my individual goals and play into the context of a team and learned how to get the maximum out of everyone around me. In addition to just generally becoming a better volleyball player, I have learned what it takes to be part of a successful team.

Coach Daniel Ames

Over the past four years, what has been your fondest volleyball memory at DU and why?
I don’t know if anyone outside of the athletics dept. knows this but I’ve been here for 8 years, and I now will get to experience the NCAA tournament with the women’s team for their first time ever, & the Men’s volleyball team for the first time ever.  It has been an honor and privilege to coach the amazing men & women student athletes that have thru these programs.

The conference tournament championship is one of the fondest memories athletically… Academically to have 3 young men walk into my office and tell me they were awarded their respective majors outstanding senior award was an amazing day, and then for another to tell me they won the Mulroy award.  Those days are very special to me personally and professionally.

Lastly my son was born on Feb. 8th. On Feb. 14th we played at North Central and he was able to attend the match. All the players did not care at all what I had to say to the team, they just wanted a team picture with my son Maddux.  I have attached that picture.  That was a VERY special moment for me and my family as it meant the world to us.

What does this season’s team and success mean to you?
This is a culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people.  There are 24 young men that are on this team and they have given their all and bought into what we do here with Dominican Men’s Volleyball.  There is a coaching staff that has not had much turn over at all over the four years.  We have all known eachother for a very long time and we work very well together.  The support from the school and the athletic department.  This is something that was built from the ground up, and we have stayed the course.  To keep that course for the fourth year, it is amazing to see what will come in the future.

How has the program grown over the past four years?
Maturity and accountability.  The team has been very close since day one.  There was growth needed for these young men in their leadership and maturity.  There is now a hierarchy within the program.  Everyone buys into their roll and will work hard to make themselves better and others better even if they do not like their roll.  Hard work get’s you places in life & this team has bought into that and works their tails off.

How have you grown as a coach and as a person over the past four years?
I’ve learned so much from these young men.  I tell each of them that they have made me a better coach.  The biggest thing I have learned is whatever your roster number is, you need to coach each  young student athlete in a different way.  Not everyone is motivated the same way.  The other thing is you hear people tell you trust the process, even when you are the person that is trying to make that process come to fruition, it is hard to trust the process.  If you surround yourself with great people that push you and challenge you to get better each and every day, then you are trusting the process and rewards will come. 

What does winning Coach of the Year mean to you, what does it symbolize?
This is a team and staff award.  The only reason I would even be considered for this award is because the 24 young mean each took care of the things they were supposed to do on the volleyball court.  The staff helped set the team and each other up for success.  I am honored and thankful that the other coaches in the MCVL awarded me with the Coach of the Year award, but I need to say thank you to the team and coaching staff that has put me in a position to be able to possibly win this award.  Every day that I’m in that gym, I’m a lucky man that I get to do my hobby for work, and those 29 people (players & coaches) try to make me a better coach & person each and every day.  I hope that I have given a small percentage of what they have done for me back to them as well.