Men’s volleyball competes on the road in February

Flor taking a swing on the rightside. Photo courtesy of Sara Ridgway

Flor taking a swing on the rightside.
Photo courtesy of Sara Ridgway

By Sara Ridgway | Published March 3, 2017 

The men’s volleyball team battled against several nationally ranked teams while travelling to New England on two separate occasions.

The team’s record currently stands at 11-6, with four of their losses coming from on-the-road competitions.

On Fri. Feb. 3, 2017, the team embarked on their journey to Massachusetts where the team faced #1 ranked Springfield College and #6 ranked New York City University in the Hall of Fame Classic. Following a three-set loss to Springfield, Kean picked up a three-set win against NYU.

But playing competitive volleyball was not the only highlight of this trip. The players also had the opportunity to teach a volleyball clinic for people of all ages. For junior, middle hitter Jared Warner, the trip to Springfield was very different than previous trips he has been on during his three years at Kean.

“We were able to share some of what we know and what we are taught in our gym at Kean,” Warner said. “I personally enjoy these clinics because I remember participating in camps and clinics when I was younger and always looking up to the guys doing the teaching.”

On the same trip, the team visited the volleyball hall of fame where there was a banquet for the four teams competing in the Hall of Fame Classic.

“It was great to see the legends from the past from all of the world and see how things began for volleyball as a sport and where it was most popular,” Warner said.

On Fri. Feb. 17, 2017, the team once again hopped aboard a bus to began their trek to Massachusetts, which resulted in a three set loss to Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The following day the team traveled to New Hampshire where they split on the day with a five-set loss to #13 ranked Rivier University and a four-set win against Regis College.

So why travel the long distance for volleyball matches? Assistant Coach Jimmy Pompeo elaborated on the process of creating the schedule each season. Often times, coaches will alternate seasons hosting matches on their home court against specific teams. With it being Kean’s turn to hit the road for several teams, it resulted in a season of travelling.

“Something we do specifically at Kean with both the men’s and women’s programs is schedule a trip to wherever the current season’s NCAA championships are held,” Pompeo said. “That way we have some experience in the atmosphere we may later be playing in.”

Warner feels that traveling to new environments is a positive learning experience for the team as a whole.

“Usually when we travel far it is to play other ranked teams so we are always going to be tested with a good game and good competition,” Warner said.

As per Warner, travelling those long bus rides can have an effect on the players mentality, but this diminishes once the players focus in and settle into the game.

Pompeo added that although traveling can be a test of the players mental toughness, it also provides the opportunity for the players to establish culture and chemistry among themselves.

The team’s record on their home court is 9-2 where on the road, their record is 2-4. Warner accounts the “home court advantage” of having fans at big games, support from other teams on campus and knowing the gym layout to the difference in performance.

“Traveling to away games shouldn’t impact our performance, although sometimes I think we slip up and let the crowd or distance get to us,” Pompeo said, “however once we get into a rhythm, our confidence takes over and we can beat any team anywhere.”

Next season the team will be changing regions and conferences. Expanding outside of the region this season was important for players to get experience competing against future opponents.

Earlier in the season, two freshmen received Skyline Conference Rookie of the Week recognition. Steven Zarycki and Dylan Flor were named Rookie of the Week on Jan. 23, 2017 and Feb. 7, 2017, respectively. Zarzycki, an outside hitter from Rochester, Ny. and Flor, a rightside hitter from Quakertown, Pa. have both played in 16 of Kean’s 17 matches.

“They are very talented guys and work hard every day in the gym,” Pompeo said. “They’re open to learn, have the drive to improve, and put the team above themselves.”

Along with Zarycki and Flor, the overall freshman class has made a presence on the court this season with frequent appearances by setter, Ian Capp and outside hitter Jacob Milnazik.

“Having such a young team, any time the freshmen step up and make a positive impact, it’s huge for the program,” Pompeo said. “They’re the future, but the faster they can make a difference the better the team will be in the present.”

This year, the team is not traveling anywhere for spring break. In past years they have travelled to Wisconsin and Florida. The season will resume after the break on March 16, 2017 with an away match against Baruch College.

“As a young team, having had a bumpy season so far, it’s important for us to find our identity, get into a groove, and have some fun on our way to a conference championship, and eventually a national championship,” Pompeo said.

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