Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette IPFW volleyball player Tony Price returns to action after missing all of last season with an injury in the opener. He is confident the Mastodons will be a much improved team in 2018.
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette IPFW's Michael Keegan sets the ball during practice Wednesday afternoon.
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette IPFW's Pelegrin Vargas during practice Wednesday afternoon.
Friday, January 05, 2018 1:00 am
IPFW healthy, ready to compete
Volleyball squad saw injuries, losses mount last season
AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette
IPFW vs. Emmanuel
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Gates Center
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Gates Center
Injuries stained the evidence of progress of the IPFW men's volleyball team last season.
Redshirt junior and outside hitter Tony Price was prepared for a stellar season, but he suffered an injury in the second set of the first match and did not return to the court for the remainder of the season. And sophomore outside hitter Pelegrin Vargas sat out the final eight matches of his freshman season because of injury.
The Mastodons went 5-23, a record that serves as additional motivation entering this season, which opens tonight against Emmanuel and a match Saturday against Lees-McRae.
“The maturity level of this group has been a great surprise, but not a shock to me,” third-year head coach Ryan Perrotte said. “They've bought in to what I've preached the last two years and partly it's the fact that we're healthy. Last year was stained from the fact that Tony and Pelegrin were injured. As competitive as we were and didn't get results, you still didn't see the whole picture. Now the whole picture is coming into focus in terms of talent and what we can do on the volleyball court.
“I think our attitudes are better (this year). I preach about this all the time, it's hard to have a good attitude when you're losing. It's just hard to do that. Our guys, as opposed to being sulky or sour from the past two years, they've used it to be hungrier. All those things have transcended because of the fact that they're more mature.”
Maturity on the court also means a higher level of confidence.
“There's no more little mistakes, no more nerves,” Price said. “We go out and do our jobs like we've been practicing for the last few years. I'm happy to be back. I had the ankle injury last year, so it's good to be back out there with the guys. I felt pretty comfortable.
“I think this is our closest our team has been since I've been here and this is my fourth year here. We had a few guys quit last year and you don't want that on your team, you don't want guys who don't want to be there. Every single person on our roster wants to be here, come to practice every day and work hard.”
Compared with other teams in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association such as Ohio State, Loyola, Lewis and Ball State, the Mastodons aren't large in stature.
That changes the way the team has to attack and defend.
“I can't get away with making the same mistake that a 6-foot-9 setter could make,” 6-3 junior setter Michael Keegan said. “I have to be more precise, our hitters have to be more precise, our offense has to be in system, our defense has to be very scrappy. We just have to do all the little things right. We can't get away with just being better athletes. We have to go out and work for it. I'm not saying they don't work for it, but we have to work even harder than them to get the same result.”
Key newcomers include junior Kolbie Knorr, a libero and transfer from MIVA foe Quincy, freshman middle blocker Tomas Gago, freshman outside hitter Austin Gerwig, freshman setter Frederico Santos and freshman libero Kade Bontrager.
“There was a lot of talent last year but this year, it's the closest the team has been,” Price said. “You see it flow on the court. It has to be chemistry with the team. Last year, there wasn't chemistry, nobody jelled, so this year everyone's best friends and there's no drama. When we're on the court, everyone's out there playing like brothers.”