Wrapping Up January

Our final two matches of January ended with Endicott College at home and then Harvard University in Boston. While both games only took three games to decide, SCVB came out with a win and a loss.

Friday night fans streamed into Blake Arena for our first Division III match of the year. For us, any D-III opponent is a must win and Friday night we were focused throughout the game. With 14 different players getting to give their effort, the game was quick and Endicott was defeated in straight sets.

The bus left the next day around 3 p.m. for Harvard. An opponent we have seen a lot of in the past and this pre-season, we traveled to hoping for another W. A slow start plagued the team as the match started. Serve receive and communication weren’t able to recover and the Pride went down in three sets.

Overall this was a very successful month, traveling to Hawaii to play against the elite teams of Division I, claiming wins over both Sacred Heart University and Endicott College, but also  dropping a match to Harvard. The only thing to do next is move forward as a team working towards our ultimate goal.

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Home Opener

There is always some electricity that goes along with officially playing in what Coach Sullivan refers to as ” The Mecca” or Blake Arena. The opponent tonight was Sacred Heart University. As the day dragged on everyone on the team began to get restless, counting down the minutes until 7 p.m. Playing in front of a home crowd filled with family, friends, and even professors is always a great experience.

As the match started, the first set proved to be full of service runs that would guide Springfield to a win. In the second set, serving was not as much of a prominent force and the match was tied one a piece.

The third and fourth sets almost mimicked the first two. Two games full of great digs, kills, blocks, and aces for both teams enabled them to snag another set. A win and a loss for the Pride would send the match to the tiebreaker.

In the fifth set, it was all Pride. A heightened level of emotional and mental play seemed to be the final factor with two huge blocks from Mike Pelletier and John Coen sealing the win against the pioneers.

The next time the Pride take the court is Friday night at 7 p.m. against Endicott College in the first Division III matchup of the season.

Back at SC

As the Outrigger tournament finished for us on Saturday afternoon, SCVB had a little more sightseeing to do. Although we were there to play volleyball, taking in the different parts of Hawaii was always part of the plan.

First the team visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial Museum. We really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to visit a truly beautiful and historic site. There we various memorials, pictures, and interactive videos that gave actual accounts from survivors of the attacks. These were moving for many of the players and coaches. We were able to see how difficult life was on a submarine by taking a tour through one that mimicked those used during the war. Finally the day ended by taking a ferry out to the U.S.S Arizona, which was a ship that sank during the bombing but was left as a tribute to those who fought on the morning of December 7th, 1941. A grand white memorial floats over it, with a tribute to everyone who passed during the fight; their names engraved in a wall of marble. The team enjoyed the humbling experience as we realized there is more to life then sports and much more to appreciate in what we have today.

We gathered on Sunday morning to hike the iconic Diamond head peak which is part of a crater that was once a volcano near Waikiki. Through some complaining of sore knees, legs, and feet, everyone was able to make it to the peak. After reaching the top, the hike was worthwhile as a clear view of Waikiki was visible, a breathtaking image. Worth the minimal pain, the hike down was quick with many pictures, yet another experience that won’t be forgotten.

Hanauma Bay was our next stop for a quick lesson in snorkeling. Yet another crater created by a volcano, Hanauma Bay is the home of beautiful coral reefs and a variety of marine life. Some of the team had underwater cameras to document what kind of life was spotted including turtles, fish, and even eels. After hours spent in the water SCVB headed back to the hotel to get ready for the Luau, which was eventually canceled because of torrential rain.

Spending our last day at the Outrigger Canoe Club, SCVB was able to reflect back on the great experience overall that the trip has been. Although losing to the top teams in the country, the trip was a success in both learning about our team and making a name for ourselves in the Division I world. After another long couple of plane rides home and two practices under our belts, SCVB has a new found determination to get back to the elite level of play that is expected.

On to the Next One

Playing Division I teams as a Division III team is an accomplishment all in itself. Stepping onto the court against the University of Hawaii, UCLA, and Lewis University is a whole other conversation. That is something everyone on this team will always remember. More importantly is how the team played and reacted to being on such a major stage.

Our first game on Thursday night 1/12, showed an excited nervousness about stepping onto the court. There was an electricity in the Stan Sheriff Center, which is most likely the largest single arena that most of the team has ever played in. The first two games of the match Hawaii took 25-21 and 26-24. The winners and losers of both of these games were separated by a couple key rallies, and with a little bit more playing time under our belts, we could have won. As the third set began, Hawaii jumped out with a lead and never looked back, sweeping SC. The team was humbled but still hungry for another fight, waiting for the next game.

Our goal was to continue to play better every night, both individually and as a unit.

On the next night we did just that. Friday 1/13, this time walking into the still gigantic Stan Sheriff Center. We were taking the court against the #3 ranked team in the country, UCLA. While we still lost in three, not a single game was lost by more than 5 points. We were able to raise our communication, unity, and level of play in order to hang with some of the best throughout each set, only being slighted towards the end of the game. Our costly errors that gave UCLA the ability to pull away, are ones that we can control. It’s these rallies that we will work on in practice, and will give us the ability to pull away in future, and get some wins.

Finally our last game took place at 4 p.m. on Saturday 1/14, against Lewis University. This time taking the court, we were hoping for a different outcome that, unfortunately, never took place. Again obtaining our goal of playing better as a unit, the scores were once again close with the #9 ranked team in the nation. Losing the third set 27-25 proved to be a heart breaker, especially since many of us thought the match would be headed to game four. We went up against the three powerhouses, and were able to play at a very high level of volleyball and proved that we could hang with these teams.

After each of the matches, a potluck dinner was hosted by the Springfield faithful, headed by the Tanaka clan and Springfield Alumni. This was a time where we could forget about the game just played, and truly enjoy spending time with family and friends who have supported us through this entire journey. Another big thanks goes out to the Tanaka family for ordering, picking up, and organizing these dinners for us. Without them, this trip would have been much more difficult, and the food would definitely not have been as good!

Overall, knowing who these teams are and knowing how we fared against them, we were able to open the eyes of not only the opposing players and coaches, but also everyone in the arena who watched us. Many were surprised at how well we played so early in our season especially against the teams we were playing. While we may not know it, Division III volleyball as a whole earned some awareness from the Division I world.

There are some that may see the outcomes of the weekend and think it was failure; it was anything but that. By playing against these teams and by playing at such an elite level, we were able to make a blueprint on what needs to be worked on for the rest of our season. By looking at the rallies we lost, we are able to pinpoint our own weakness and fix them before anyone else can exploit them. It is now our job to fix what we have learned, and by doing this, we are one up on any opponent we face.

This weekend should be viewed as a success because of everything we have accomplished from being the first Division III team to be invited to the Outrigger Invitational, to now seeing what we have to work on for our team to work efficiently as a unit.

Our work is laid out for us, remembering that it is the journey.  It is the work along the way that creates the end product and not the other way around.

Getting down to Business

Our first practice was held the night we arrived. Suiting up, Springfield College took the court and picked up where we left off from our preseason practices. The energy and excitement was evident and a good practice followed not only shaking off rust from traveling but solidifying things we needed to work on as a team. After practice, tired, aching , and ready for sleep, SCVB made it back to the hotel.

The next day consisted of the beach until practice at 2:30, followed by a sunset dinner cruise out in front of Waikiki.

Making our way to the beach, SCVB sported tank tops, boardshorts, and flip flops, practically running to the beautiful Waikiki beach. Finally finding a spot large enough to house 19 college athletes, bags were dropped and towels were laid down. In warm water, John Coen and Sam Zapatka mastered the art of the paddleboard, while teammates swam and soaked up the rays. The scene of the beautiful coast, Waikiki in the background, along with Diamond Head, a crater created by a volcano, was a sight for the team that will never be forgotten.

Practice at 3 was the next thought in our heads. Another good practice from the  Springfield team ensued. The team was energized despite the heat in the gym. Great digs, kills, passes, and plays were made. The determination and drive on the court showed that this is more than just a game. Springfield was ready for the match against Hawaii a little over 24 hours away.

Hungry, we headed to our sunset dinner cruise, which proved to be more fun than anyone had expected. A buffet style dinner was the immediate sign it would be a good night. After everyone had stuffed themselves with delicious food, pictures were take with the team along with a amazing sunset and surprisingly two whale sightings. Evidently, Nick Ferry earned the title “Whale Whisperer” after constantly saying “Jump, Whale Jump” until it finally did. Everyone was astonished and cheers rang across the water when the first fin appeared.

As it began to get dark, everyone headed inside for dessert, music, and dancing. A lot of dancing. The Springfield College team was announced and brought up for a lesson in hula dancing that showed utterly awkward results. Building up to the finale of these lessons, Coach Sullivan in a grass skirt and pom poms along with four hula girls performed for all to see and surely a sight everyone will never let him forget. As the different dances continued, we were able to learn about the rich history of Hawaii through the dances and songs that were played. As SCVB once again got up to dance, it was Nick Ferry who proved to be the best of the team when it came to the fast hip movements of the hula dancers. A close second finished John Coen, Jordan Robinson, and Sam Zapatka.

Many laughs, pictures, and what were soon to be memories were exchanged as we got off the boat. Through this experience a team that already considers themselves brothers got a little closer. On the night before our first match, and a big one against the host team Hawaii, this is all that any of us could have asked for.

Aloha Springfield College!

The Springfield College Men’s Volleyball team was invited to the prestigious 2012 Outrigger Invitational in Hawaii. We will face off against some of the elite teams in the country including UCLA, Lewis University, and the University of Hawaii. Springfield was invited to this tournament because of the how well we played in the EIVA conference playoffs last April. It is an honor to to participate in this tournament and a once in a lifetime chance for a Division III school.

SCVB gathered in Springfield three days prior to departing to Hawaii for a short but demanding season to prepare for the upcoming matches. Finally it was time to hop on the bus regardless of the fact it was 3 a.m. Most of the team didn’t bother to go to bed, and were rather lively, and even a little giddy as the bus arrived.

Pulling into the airport confirmed we were actually headed to Hawaii. The fact that there was a dusting of snow in Boston proved a sweeter goodbye to warmer weather. All that stood between us and paradise was an 11 hour plane ride.

The first flight to Dallas was real easy. A quick 3 hour flight, which everyone napped right through. Immediately we hopped onto the next plane, which was 8 hours. This flight consisted of movies, music, books, and of course more sleeping. Except sleeping on a plane when Coach Sullivan’s children are wreaking havoc didn’t bode well for many.

And many of my teammates above 6’3″ found it difficult to get comfortable with little leg room. As tensions ran high, the wheels touched down in 80 degree weather. Greeted by the Tanaka Family, each team member received the traditional Lei around there neck along with water and homemade cookies to save the day.

From the airport we checked into the Ohana Waikiki Malia, the hotel we were staying at, and then left for dinner. SCVB had been invited to dinner hosted by a group of Springfield College Alumni who lived in the area along with the Tanaka Family.

After introductions and dinner were finished, songs from Springfield College and Hawaii were sung in addition to various toasts and prayers. The genuine excitement and interest about us from the alumni was inspiring and is a true testament to Springfield College and the values it instills in everyone who has attended.

A big thank you goes out to the Tanaka Family for everything they have done and continue to do for us to make our lives ten times easier on this trip. Also to Art Lum for his hard work in organizing the dinner and finally to all of the alumni who came to have dinner and share their stories with us.