By: John Kaywood
After dropping the opening four matches of the 2017-2018 season, the Sacred Heart University men’s volleyball team won back-to-back games in commanding fashion.
The Pioneers only dropped two sets in their two victories against Lasell College and Belmont Abbey respectively. The team finishes out the rest of February on the road.
While there has been some great momentum created in those matches, the Pioneers are still preparing for the challenging road games ahead.
“ Those wins are good, they are good confidence boosters, but realistically though we lost our first conference game and the mood in practice is we have to get to work,” said senior Josh Ayzenberg.
Ayzenberg had a season high 22 digs on Feb. 2, against Belmont Abbey, but is clear that the numbers don’t matter.
“Day in and day out, not sitting and resting on my laurels but just everyday trying to get better,” said Anyzenberg. “The last game is over, last season is over and you just have to look toward the future.”
“We are a talented team, we have a ton of depth which is unlike past seasons,” said head coach Gregory Walker. “We have to grind in the practice gym everyday. Not one day out of the week, but every day.”
The team has even restructured some of its gym routine and Walker has seen progression in his club each week of the season.
The Pioneers posted 16.5 blocks in their victory over Belmont Abbey. Great communication and translating good habits from practice contributed to the successful blocking.
Moving forward, the Pioneers will play the second half of a four-game road trip. They had played two games in Pennsylvania against Penn State and St. Francis University on Feb. 16 and 17. Both games resulted in a loss.
They now will travel to New Jersey to play both New Jersey Institute Technology (NJIT) and Princeton on Feb. 23 and 24. Princeton is ranked in the NC Men’s Volleyball RPI Top 25.
Walker would like to see greater hitting in the coming matchups, similar to the season-high .305 hitting percentage they posted against Lasell.
“The game of volleyball is nicknamed the ‘Game of Errors,’” said Walker. “If you can make less but put more stress on the opponent defensively by placement, then we would find more success.”
Management and nutrition before, between and after the upcoming road schedule will play a major key in their success.
“I think it’s all about managing our nutrition while we are on the road because we are eating out a lot,” said Anyzenberg. “Eating the right things, getting enough sleep and taking the time to rest. I’m officially a senior now so I’m tired all the time, it’s not as hard for me to relax prior to matches.”
Still, the team has to eat.
“After a lot of Panera, Chipotle, and last year we beat Penn State after eating Qdoba so that’s the new superstition,” said Anyzenberg. “So we got to eat Qdoba this year.”
Despite their success last year, the team still has to work hard to compete at the same level this season.
“ One thing I wanted this 2018 team to know is that there is only one 2018 season,” said Walker. “Three points of emphasis as we move into this road trip and ultimately the rest of the season are, live in the moment, compete everyday for every opportunity and to make changes when needed.”