Men’s Varsity Volleyball Preview
By Jean Baak
The College of Staten Island men’s volleyball program transitioned from a two-year club intramural to a full varsity sport as of January 2015. CSI was the last of the CUNY colleges to officiate men’s varsity volleyball.
Head Coach Juan Lopez expects to surprise the conference schools in the anticipated games and to prove that his first-year Dolphins can dive in the deep end. Lopez says that their opponents will not have an easy time.
The CSI men’s varsity volleyball team traveled to Ramapo College on January 25 to build a name for the Dolphins in the introductory season.
The dual away match featured Ramapo College and City College of New York. Both teams swept the CSI Dolphins in a three-set match.
Though these games did not count towards the regular season, the losses tasted bittersweet to the CSI players who, nonetheless, arrived and left the courts with lingering hopes.
Ramapo College, the Dolphins’ first competitor, rose to the top and didn’t look back, boasting winning sets of 25-13, 25-10, and 25-9.
According to Coach Lopez, who described Ramapo as a “volleyball-oriented school” whose players stood out in height as well as in skill, the opening game against Ramapo was intentionally significant for his team.
“Playing Ramapo as first game of the season was a wake-up call for the guys,” said Lopez. “I wanted them to see what else was out there outside of conference.”
However, rivaling against a seasoned college was overwhelming for the starting players, who reluctantly handed over their momentum to City College in the next round.
“We need to learn how to shut these schools down,” said Lopez. “CCNY was a sneak preview of the upcoming conference.”
Albeit the mass number of serves that CCNY aced and those that CSI failed to receive, the Dolphins were neck-and-neck with the Beavers whose scores ultimately rounded out to 25-19, 25-22, and 25-15.
All-around hitter Song Shin Low further explained that the team did not interact enough on the court nor did they play solid defense–both techniques that are considered essential in the team sport. Here, Lopez emphasized the importance of teamwork.
“With other sports, you can kind of shine on your own,” said Lopez. “In volleyball you can’t pass, set, or hit a ball on your own.”
Appearing frequently in the early season, a lack of confidence in each player’s ability during practice and games chipped away at the team’s overall performance.
Despite the opinion of starting players like Brandon Lei, Brandon Ng, and Dewayne Stewart who promoted chemistry, leadership, and optimism as top three qualities of a strong team, they believe that their team’s full potential has yet to be discovered.
“We need to be more aggressive,” said Lei. “Players are still afraid to get the ball, especially in the back row, where the ball is being served to.”
Captain Brian Sheydvasser acknowledged the team’s insecurities that leave them second-guessing their decisions during practices and games.
“Sometimes we communicate throughout,” said Sheydvasser. “Sometimes we get down and don’t communicate at all.”
The hushed communication was evident in the much-speculated first home game of the CSI men’s varsity volleyball team against NJ City University.
The Dolphins experienced a close call in the third set but failed to follow through. Tucking away three losses in the forefront of a brand new season was unsettling for the restless Dolphins.
The team captain continued to address communication issues through methods of one-on-one consultations and team performance analyses.
Sorting through common confusions in a short period of time, the Dolphins collected their first win in CSI men’s varsity volleyball program history overthrowing CCNY at an official conference match held at John Jay College on February 7.
Originally tied at 2-2 sets apiece, CSI prevailed in the final fifth set with a close score of 15-10.
Despite the proud moment in CSI history, Captain Sheydvasser revealed that Coach Lopez was disappointed in the team’s consistent absence of energy on the court.
In the previous match, Lopez’s team lost to a more determined Baruch College. CSI’s setter Song Shin Low admitted to having bad judgment when he set to the wrong people at the wrong time.
“We played down to our competitors,” said Sheydvasser. “Coach felt that we should have beat CCNY in three sets.”
The team captain credited a post-discussion of the CCNY team’s individual tendencies and weaknesses, which guided the Dolphins to make wiser decisions during game play.
CSI’s Low praised CCNY’s setter, Anthony Reyes, who was not present during the non-conference game but was an optimal choice opponent in the conference match. Captain Sheydvasser added that the middle hitter of CCNY opted to survey the court then tip the ball instead of taking the full shot.
Two days after the team’s pivotal win, CSI men’s varsity volleyball deflated St. Joseph’s College (Brooklyn) on the Dolphins’ second home game.
CSI began on a high note with a 25-19 win in the first set, a 25-21 brush in the second set, and a 25-15 victory in the third set which lifted the Dolphins’ overall record to 2-4 alongside their two-win streak.
Despite the rocky start, CSI men’s varsity volleyball looks forward to building even more waves in the following conference games against Lehman College, Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn College, and what could possibly be a successful rematch against Baruch College.
“This is a new program, so winning every game is kind of unrealistic, but we learn from every match that we play,” said Coach Lopez. “We want to be the best that we can be for CSI.”