Men’s Volleyball learns valuable lessons from Hiram Invitational

Photo by Mike Dickie: AC Men’s Volleyball junior defensive specialist Joseph Herrera

Eight wins, 14 losses. The Men’s Volleyball team hopes last year’s 8-14 record soon becomes a distant memory. The overall record of 8-14 was the final statistic for the Bulldogs 2018 season. Last season was head coach Zak Krug’s first. Still, the 8th-place MCVL Division finish was an improvement over the 2017 (4-21) and 2016 (1-21) seasons.

As we’re nearing the halfway point of the 2019 season, the Bulldogs are on pace to a significant record improvement under Krug’s second term. They sit comfortably with a 9-5 record at the time of this writing, already passing the overall win margin from the 2018 season. The beginning of this season though was a rocky start. The Bulldogs had a 2-3 record after their first five games, with momentum looking like it was going to continue in the opposite direction. However, the men’s team bounced back with a three-game win streak in the middle of January and a four-game win streak earlier this month. Looking back, this shift in momentum can be traced back to one weekend: the Hiram Invitational back in January.

On Jan. 18-19, the Bulldogs travelled to Hiram, OH to face three opponents that tested not only their physical prowess, but also their mental strength down the stretch. The tournament started out with the Bulldogs squaring off against 1-0 Geneva, losing 3-2 after five close sets.

With such a bitter defeat at the start of the tournament, it wouldn’t be out of the question that team morale would have suffered. However, the players reminded each other that there were still games to play, meaning there was still a chance to redeem themselves.

“The message to the team after we lost to Geneva was to bounce back,” says junior Joseph Herrera. “and focus on what we could control which is serving tough passes  and swinging with a purpose. In the pervious loss we got away from our game plan. So we focused on those key factors.”

Sophomore Kolby Miller added, “We just needed that energy and to tighten up mental mistakes and we knew we were going to be fine.”

The Bulldogs did indeed bounce back, taking down host Hiram in the next game, 3-1. Junior Noah Marcinkowski had a highlight reel of a night, posting 17 kills while junior setter Joseph Campana added 41 assists.

To end the weekend, Adrian faced off against Thomas More. The Bulldogs steamrolled the Saints with a 3-0 victory. Miller and Herrera comment that both momentum and team discipline helped the team create such a landslide victory.

“We felt extremely confident coming out of the gates when playing Thomas More,” said Miller. “We had just come off a quality win against Hiram and took that momentum into this match. We had just put the momentum and confidence into a great performance against Thomas More. For those two runs, we just felt the flow of the game and it came to us naturally. When we are playing in a rhythm we can score in bunches and it came through in those sets.”

Herrera adds, “we really focused on taking care of the ball on first contact, and making sure we are being disciplined on our defense and within the system we ran.”

While Hiram now seems like a distant memory in the minds of the men’s volleyball team, it’s a place that can be reflected upon as the most important. Without the lessons learned at Hiram, the team grew in terms of resilience, teamwork, and unselfishness. Factors that they hold close to them as they put their streak of losing seasons in the rearview mirror.  

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