February 7, 2017
By Christopher Sich
The Dominican University men’s volleyball team has begun the season 4-1, winning their last four matches by straight sets, and look to continue their winning ways as they begin conference play.
The Stars came into the season prepared and game ready, but struggled in their season opener losing a tough one to New York University.
“I do think that this year the team came into the gym more physically fit than they have in years past,” Head Coach Daniel Ames said. “Mentally they were prepared with the experience, but the NYU match had us take a step back and now it’s time for us to move forward.”
The opening match was a wake-up call, and ever since they have been working tirelessly in the gym to improve as a team.
“We are working on becoming a more cohesive unit,” Ames said. “We changed our starting lineup and are now just working out the kinks with more reps in the gym.”
Other than working on team cohesiveness, the team has focused on paying attention to detail and their mental toughness.
“We are really trying to focus on working hard for each point,” junior libero David Demarco said. “That’s been something that Dan (Ames) has been trying to drill into us that each point matters and we need to fight tooth and nail for it.”
The team, though, has regrouped and is playing better. The Stars have 11 seniors on their roster and will rely on their experience and depth throughout the season.
“This young group of men has a good work ethic,” Ames said. “Our Strength is our experience and the push we have within the team at each in every position.”
The team’s depth is a strong suit for the Stars this year. Senior Mason Solbrig believes that this is the best offensive team the program has ever had.
“This is the best offensive season we have ever had, with everyone, including the bench,” Solbrig said. “We have two players on the bench at any given position that can step on the court and earn some points.”
The Stars have an important, and difficult, stretch of matches coming up as they play six straight conference matches, with five of those on the road.
“We do our best to make sure the team is readily physically and mentally, and that they don’t forget to enjoy these moments with their teammates,” Ames said.
The Stars, though, are actually looking forward to this stretch of away games.
According to Solbrig and Demarco, the team plays better on the road.
“A lot of us are actually more comfortable on the road,” Solbrig said. “The mindset some of us get by being on a bus versus just showing up before the game builds focus, and that helps a lot.”
Not only does playing on the road improve their focus, it also is a great opportunity for the team to bond.
“Our team really enjoys the bus rides and the time leading up to games, so we are looking forward to starting our conference season strong,” Demarco said.
The Stars did begin their conference season strong on Friday, February 3, as they swept the Benedictine Eagles three sets to zero. The game started somewhat even, but the Stars pulled away as they played with discipline and dominated the third set 25-13. The Stars had 45 kills, lead by Luke Spicer with 13, and 40 assists, 37 of those coming by way of Alex Coyne.
The Stars hope their level play continues to improve as they look to achieve their season goals.
“Our goals never change; it’s winning conference and the conference tournament first and foremost,” Ames said.
By winning conference and the conference tournament, the Stars will clinch a berth to the NCAA tournament, the ultimate goal for the team, especially the seniors.
“For half the team, this is it, our last season of volleyball,” Solbrig said. “So, of course our goal is going to be to make it to at least the final four of the NCAA D3 tournament.”
The goals are set and the team has high expectations for themselves, but all would be for naught without the coaching and support of Ames.
“Coach is doing great; he comes in every day with a plan and is doing the best job he has ever done at helping everyone see what they can improve on” Solbrig said. “When you have someone like him coming to practice every day, you can’t help but improve.”
The season will be a long battle, but they are prepared and ready to fight each every second. The Stars will look to continue their four-game winning streak on Friday, February 10, as they travel to Greenville, Ill. to face off against conference opponent Greenville College.