Men’s volleyball wraps up 2017 season
By Sara Ridgway | Published May 8, 2017
The men’s volleyball team reigns as Skyline Conference Champions for the sixth consecutive season.
After going undefeated in conference play during the 2017 season, the Cougars faced St. Joseph’s College – Long Island in the semifinals of the conference playoff s for a three-set win.
Advancing to the finals, Kean faced The College of Mt. St. Vincent and again tabbed a three-set win, resulting in Kean being crowned conference champions and the team receiving a bid to the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Tournament.
Four Cougars earned recognition on the All-Skyline Teams. Kauffman and junior Jared Warner landed spots on the first team while junior Shayron Taylor and freshman Steven Zarzycki were named to the second team.
Kauffman was also named to the ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) First Team.
Although there were many individual accomplishments throughout the course of the season, Head Coach Charlie Ginex reiterated that the team is a team and they are the strongest when it is a group effort.
“At one point or another every player made a major contribution to the overall team goals,” Ginex said. “Not one player in our gym did not make a major impact in some capacity.”
Upon entering the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, the Skyline Champions record stood at 26-8.
On Saturday, April 22 at 4 p.m. in Harwood Arena, Kean hosted the number 4 ranked team SUNY New Paltz who were the Division III NCAA Champions in 2016.
Ginex said the team felt very strong going into the NCAA Tournament.
“We felt like we were playing our best volleyball when it counted, at the end of the season,” Ginex said.
The match was a five-set thriller that kept the players and fans of both teams on their toes.
New Paltz snagged the first set 25-21, but Kean pulled through in the second set winning 25-20. Going into the third set the teams were 1-1, but New Paltz pulled ahead 25-19.
The fourth set could have gone either way and went into extra points as the Hawks and the Cougars battled. Kean captured the set 27-25.
The teams stood at 2-2 and the match proceeded to the 15-point deciding set, where Kean came on strong with an 8-3 lead. But after the teams switched sides at the eight point mark, Kean lost momentum and New Paltz took the lead.
The set ended 15-13 in favor of the opponent and New Paltz proceeded to the next round of the tournament.
“This one stings,” Ginex said, “this one will not be forgotten anytime soon, but we will learn from it.”
Regardless of the outcome, Ginex felt that the performance of his team showed a lot of character.
“For us to have an opportunity to win the match against the defending national champions was a great accomplishment and I am very proud of the resolve of our team,” Ginex said.
Ginex was named ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) Division III South Coach of the Year. He was named Skyline Conference Coach of the Year in 2014, but is the first coach at Kean to earn the ECAC honor.
But Ginex was not aware about earning the award until a day or so after it had been announced.
“I focus more on the team than the individual accolades and as nice as it is to be recognized, it is something I would trade in a heartbeat for a chance to keep playing and coaching the young men that I had the pleasure of working with this year,” Ginex said.
Ginex revealed that this season is the last year that Kean is participating in the Skyline Conference. In 2018 the team will be joining the Continental Volleyball Conference, also known as the CVC.
“The CVC is a much bigger (geographically) conference, and a much better conference as a whole, one in which we will be tested for sure,” Ginex said.
Skyline rival Ramapo College will also be joining the CVC with Kean. Rutgers University – Newark, Cairn University and Neumann College will be played twice during conference play. Kean will play the teams in the West Division of the conference as well which are Marymount University, Southern Virginia University, Eastern Mennonite University, Juniata College and Thiel College.
This season, the competition in the Skyline was significantly better than the past five years that Kean has dominated the conference. With the addition of St. Joseph’s College – Long Island, a first year program that came on strong, and the competition of the other conference teams improving, earning the conference title was more of a challenge this season.
“We had to earn and work for every win this year, but that also makes it more satisfying, knowing that nothing was handed to us,” Ginex said.
A long haul, the men’s volleyball season began in early January and ended in late April. Through ups and downs, the team pulled out a conference win, NCAA appearance and boasted a 74.3 win percentage with an overall ending record of 26 and 9.