BY Anthony Saccone
The Sacred Heart men’s volleyball team is in their first season under head coach Robert Bertucci. The Pioneers are 2-10 throughout their first 12 games of the season, and are currently in sixth place in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA).
Bertucci is proud of the way the team has battled in their matchups.
“The level of competition has been really good and these guys have competed against everybody. We are within two points of anybody,” said Bertucci. “Moving forward, I see us getting better each and every time we play.”
Graduate student co-captain Emerson Waumans has embraced Bertucci’s coaching style and strategies this season.
“Coach Bertucci has a great coaching resume and the team has benefited from having him at the helm,” said Waumans. “He has been encouraging, pointing out several different areas that we have grown both individually and as a team.”
The team has been working on tightening up certain areas of their game, and senior co-captain Tom Wisniewski has noticed the improvements.
“I believe our team has improved a lot from the beginning of our season. We have worked on improving our passing and serving for the past several weeks,” said Wisniewski. “The key thing, really, is for our team to keep playing together. We’re starting to build confidence in each other and are playing much better as a team.”
The offense flows through senior setter Noah Ricchetti, who leads the team in total assists on the season with 288.
“I’ve gotten so many assists because our hitters have become better this year,” said Ricchetti. “With good hitters, it takes some pressure off the setter because you can deliver them a non-perfect ball and they will still find a way to score, and that’s what our guys have done.”
Bertucci has high demands of this year’s senior class to lead the team both on and off the court.
“It is on our senior class to carry the team on their shoulders,” said Bertucci. “What really stands out to me is their experience level, and the athleticism of the group and what they are capable of accomplishing.”
According to Athletic Communications, the team’s defense has 92 total blocks on the season, with 40 of those coming during EIVA conference play.
“I see the most improvement in that area [defense], which is something that hasn’t been a strong point of Sacred Heart volleyball in years past,” said Waumans. “I have no doubt that Coach will continue to isolate our weaknesses and guide us in the direction of continued improvement.”
The team’s first EIVA conference win of the season came against the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) back on Feb. 22, as Sacred Heart defeated NJIT, 3-1. In the third set of the match, the team held NJIT to nine total points.
“In our big win over NJIT, I thought the biggest takeaway was our serving,” said Ricchetti. “We have guys with the ability to score on the serve. In that match, the serves were in, and NJIT was struggling to handle them.”
Bertucci likes the direction that the program is going in and hopes to see more progress being made by the team.
“We are getting better at being able to keep our composure,” said Bertucci. “As long as we play within our abilities we will limit the unforced errors, and continue to compete and challenge our opponents on a daily basis.”