Men’s volleyball team victorious in home opener against Nichols College

Sophomore+middle%2Foutside+Neiko+Pittman+attempts+a+dig+against+Nichols+College.

Photo: Kayla Buck

Sophomore middle/outside Neiko Pittman attempts a dig against Nichols College.

By Tyler Foy, Sports Editor

The Emerson men’s volleyball team fought a back-and-forth match against Nichols College, rallying in the fourth set to secure its first win of the season.

The Lions, who hadn’t played a match since 2020, were searching for their first win in nearly two years.

Unlike Emerson, Nichols played in 2021—amassing nine games over the course of the 2021 season, but the Bisons didn’t find much success, only winning one game. 

Women’s and Men’s Volleyball Head Coach, Benjamin Read, said the preparation for the game wasn’t focused on Nichols’ previous season, but on creating an effective game plan.

“I actually looked at the stats and tried to see who was returning and had a good idea of what some of the players gonna do, but it didn’t matter,” Read said. “It ultimately comes down to what we’re doing. We control our sides, our serving, our passing, and how we run our defense.”

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Only one of the Lions’ starting six entered Thursday night’s game with prior collegiate experience. Senior outside hitter Rory Dobbins transferred to Emerson from Newbury College following the closing of their program in 2019 and made an effort to use his experience to guide the younger players on the court.

“I was really trying to bring my experience on the court,” Dobbins said after the game. “Last time I played Nichols was three years ago at my last school, so it’s been quite some time.”

The first set started with the Bisons scoring early, but Emerson first-year middle blocker Ramsis De Los Santos landed a kill to get the offense rolling. 

With Nichols up 6-4, the Lions found a rhythm and scored eight of the next nine points. The Bison showed their resilience and chipped away at the deficit, eventually coming within two points at 18-16. With the Lions stringing together four straight points, the Bison put together a four-point run of their own leading to an Emerson timeout. The Lions secured the first set 25-23 on an error following a Dobbins block.

The start of the second set was similar as Nichols went up 5-2, but the Lions kept it close. A five-point run put Emerson up by three, 13-10. The Bison would score five consecutive points to reclaim the lead 17-16. 

The Lions called a timeout at 23-23 and won the final points of the game on an attack error and a kill from sophomore attacker Neiko Pittman. 

Pittman and fellow sophomore Luke Reohm made their collegiate debuts despite being a part of the roster for one year. Dobbins said their athletic ability has helped the team perform well with such a young roster.

“They’re just incredibly athletic, incredibly talented when it comes to volleyball,” Dobbins said. “They’re doing a great job out there.”

In the third set, Emerson and Nichols brought another back and forth match-up. The Lions had a two-point lead when the Bison made a push to take control of the set. Seven straight points put Nichols up 15-10 before the Lions stopped the bleeding with a kill from Roehm.

The Bison players chanted, “these are freshmen” towards the Lions, confidently, while being down by two sets. Emerson attempted to battle back, but the deficit was too much and Nichols won the set 25-17. 

Emerson’s 10 errors— which Read attributed to a lack of full practices— contributed largely to the loss. 

“For the most part, it looked like we’ve been practicing for two or three weeks as a whole team and not as small individuals,” Read said. “There are definitely some plays where people kind of look at each other and it all falls behind them at them—that’s frustrating—a couple of bonehead things.”

Heading into the fourth set, the energy in the gym picked up, but Nichols started the set 5-1. The Lions called a timeout and when they returned, their offense began to gain traction eventually knotting the score at eight. Emerson fell behind again, 19-14.

Emerson battled back to 22-19 with Nichols up. Facing a three-point deficit, Emerson battled forward and tied the score at 22. With the Lions on match point, Roehm served his third ace in five plays to win the game 25-22 Emerson.

Serving is one of the men’s volleyball team’s main concerns to improve upon this season. Dobbins scored four aces in the match-up with an injured shoulder and is looking to make a difference when he is at full strength.

“I haven’t been able to serve much in practice, but I’m definitely gonna work on it going forward,” Dobbins said. “When I have my shoulder a little bit more [recovered] so I get those [serves a] little bit faster, a little bit better, and then ultimately, they are a game-changer.”

Pittman led the team with 12 kills and six blocks. He said he was nervous in the lead-up to the game, but is now relieved to get it over with and move forward.

“It just felt so nice to play again,” Pittman said. “Once I hit the court and actually felt that energy. The whole time I was so pumped and for it to be over like the stress of the first day. I feel like it’s just really nice to see the team kind of come together.”

Due to Saturday’s snowstorm, the game against Emmanuel College was rescheduled to Jan. 29, just one day after the match against Nichols. Read said the energy could be a concern moving through the season with just 10 players on the roster, but shouldn’t affect the team against Emmanuel.

“We’re not gonna get to sleep,” Read said. “The kids have to do homework, so we’re just gonna try to let them focus on that.” 

“I think we’re gonna be a little more sore than we would if we had a normal practice,” he continued. “But we’ve got that game experience. We can learn from those mistakes.”

The Lions were swept by Emmanuel by three and look to bounce back in their Feb. 3 away match-up against Eastern Nazarene College.