The men’s volleyball team lost in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference quarterfinals for the sixth year in a row, but head coach Ben Read said the team experienced significant improvement this season.
“From the first day of practice to our first game, it was like night and day,” Read said. “We improved so much, you wouldn’t even recognize the team. We ran into a hot Johnson & Wales team that ended our season a little short, but we did make the playoffs, so that’s something we can keep our heads high for.”
The Lions lost in the first round of the GNAC playoffs 3-0 to Johnson & Wales University on April 9. The team finished sixth in the GNAC with a conference record of 3-11 and an overall record of 11-14.
Senior outside hitter Win Kittivatcharapong said the team’s improvement impressed him.
“We came in with a very small squad, but I think everyone played their hearts out and left everything on the court,” Kittivatcharapong said. “It was a great experience from the beginning to the end.”
Senior libero Jacob DiTore said he enjoyed his final volleyball season with the Lions.
“I think this was one of the seasons that I’ve had the most fun with volleyball,” DiTore said. “I think that’s because we went into the season with a positive mentality that we tried to keep throughout the season regardless of how we were playing.”
The team won eight of its first 10 matches to begin the season. However, the Lions slowed down upon facing opponents in the GNAC and won just three of their final 15 matches.
Read said the team’s victory over Regis University and competitiveness against Rivier University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology represented high points in the season.
“I can’t even remember the last time we took a set from Rivier or MIT,” Read said. “And in the beginning of the season, to beat Regis [at home] 3-1, that was huge. We knew we were competing for that last playoff spot with Regis, so beating them here put us in a very good spot moving forward.”
Kittivatcharapong said everyone on the team contributed in the match against Johnson & Wales University for the playoffs.
“It was one of our better games statistically,” Kittivatcharapong said. “We didn’t win, but everyone played their part really well.”
The team will lose three seniors—outside hitter Mark Piorkowski, DiTore, and Kittivatcharapong. Piorkowski led the team this season with 340 kills while Kittivatcharapong totaled 158 kills. DiTore led the team with 200 digs, and Piorkowski recorded 190.
“It was nice to see our seniors step up and do a great job, and they’ve grown a lot over the four years,” Read said. “Jake’s defense, communication and leadership, Mark’s offense and consistency across the board, and Win’s power behind the serve, block, and hitting the middle were huge. We’re still waiting on some recruits, and we’re going to ask our underclassmen to really step up next year.”
Read said the team’s coaching staff worked hard to recruit players for next season.
“We have one kid that’s verbally committed, and we’re waiting for another four or five to make their decisions,” Read said. “We’ve had more quality recruits than ever before apply to Emerson. We’ve brought in some really strong kids, so it’s just a matter of sealing the deal.”
Kittivatcharapong said the team’s future is bright despite the loss of the three graduating seniors.
“A lot of our starters are still freshmen or sophomores, so they’re going to be here for a long time,” Kittivatcharapong said. “All three of us wish we could turn back time and do it all over again, but I’m very excited to see what this team can accomplish in the future.”