Men’s volleyball looks to build on success

By Mike Jago

 

The Kean University men’s volleyball team is looking to build on their successful 2011-2012 campaign, as they get ready to open up their season in January.

The 2012-2013 men’s volleyball team.
Photo Credit: Kean Athletics

Third-year head coach Don Perkins, who lead the team to a 25-11 record in the 2011-2012 season, is looking to expand on their previous successes, which include a Skyline Conference regular season co-championship, as well as a Skyline Conference tournament championship, all coming in the team’s second year as a program. Additionally, the team qualified for it’s first ever NCAA Division III championship tournament.

The team was ranked nationally at No. 14 and is looking to once again be labeled as one of the top teams in the country. The roster only lost two players due to graduation and will be returning their entire starting lineup, minus one player.

Steve Vahalla, a second-team All-American, is excited for the upcoming season, and the new players that it brings. “We have some new freshman that will help us,” he said.

The team boasts an impressive roster of 13 players, including Vahalla, four juniors, six sophomores and two freshmen. Vahalla said he believes the core of players returning is a good thing.

“The chemistry from last year’s players will carry over and help us reach our goals,” he said.

Vahalla will be the team’s senior leader. At 6-foot-6, he is a force to be reckoned with on the court. Last year, Vahalla led the team in kills (spike points), was third on the team in digs (defensive contact), and second on the team in aces (serves directly resulting in a point). He was also was named Skyline Conference Player of the Week. This season also brings back All-Skyline First Team player Tom Kemmerle, and All-Skyline second-teamer Kyle Farley.

While Vahalla and the team accomplished many successes, he expects more of the same this season. “I want to become a first team All-American,” he said, adding that he also wants to “win our conference again, also advancing to the NCAA tournament and improving our season record from last year.”

The team will be looking to cope with the loss of its’ two graduated seniors. Christian Portera, who was an All-Skyline first team recipient and had been with the team since its inception, led the team in sets played and was second on the team in kills. At the same time, Sam Haimann, who was the team’s most versatile player. Haimann finished last season with 165 digs, 79 kills and 18 aces.

The team is one of the more successful on the Kean campus, which works well for a team in its third year of existence. After a mild inaugural season, finishing with a win-loss record of 11-23, the team broke through and had an incredible sophomore year. Now with a winning season under their belts, the Cougars are looking to take the national ranks and opposing teams by storm. Skyline Conference Coach of the Year Don Perkins looks to duplicate the successes of the 2011-2012 campaign, as well as bring more victories back to the Kean community.

The team will be looking to start the 2012 season on a good note as it takes on Rutgers-Newark on Jan. 25 at 7:30 pm.


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