The men’s volleyball team is moving into tougher competition in their season as conference play begins. From this point in the season on, every game counts towards determining the top six teams moving on to playoffs.
So far this season, the Emerson team has played 15 matches with an overall record of 9-6 and a conference record of 2-4.
This year, Regis College joined the Great Northeast Athletic Conference after Albertus Magnus College’s program was cut. The addition of Regis College displaced Emerson to the seventh spot in the preseason coaches’ poll, head coach Ben Read said.
In past seasons, Emerson volleyball has taken the sixth spot that qualifies them for playoffs, but the addition of Regis College makes the competition for that last spot tougher, according to senior middle Stig Regan.
“In years past, [making playoffs] hasn’t really been a problem, we’ve always made playoffs,” Regan said. “But this year, probably the weakest team in our conference doesn’t have a program anymore, they left the conference and Regis, which is the strongest team in a neighboring conference, moved to ours.”
Sophomore setter Lucas Raagas said the team’s seventh-place ranking motivates his teammates in practice.
“It’s kind of set a fire under us because we want to prove everybody wrong,” Raagas said.
A larger roster has put the Lions in a strong position as they move into conference play. The team boasts thirteen players, compared to last season’s nine. Read said the added players make a big difference during practices.
“This is the first year in practice we can scrimmage six versus six without having to ask staff or myself to step in, so we can actually do coaching, which is pretty awesome,” Read said.
This season, the Lions didn’t lose any senior players, added four freshmen, and added a player joining in his sophomore year.
Raagas—the new sophomore on the team—was playing basketball in the Emerson gym last year when Read noticed his volleyball jersey and approached him about joining the team.
“[Raagas] was wearing a Beantown jersey and I was like, ‘Oh that’s one of the best club teams in New England for volleyball, so we actually went and talked to him,” Read said. “He has been able to add a lot of depth to the setter position.”
The combination of Raagas and freshman Marcus Cepeda setting enables the team to run more offenses and gives the team more line-up options, Raagas said.
“[Raagas and I] have two different styles and we’re two very different people on the court, but I think we both bring a lot to the team that benefits it,” Raagas said.
With a stronger team this year, the Lions hope to host the first round of playoffs, which is reserved for teams ranked third or fourth in the conference. They currently stand in the sixth position among the pool, one spot above Regis College.
“We’re less of underdogs this year because it’s a little more unpredictable,” Regan said. “Rather than having these teams that are dominant within the conference, there’s much more opportunity to shake things up this year and we expect ourselves to follow through on that and take advantage.”
In the last game before spring break, the Lions swept Regis College in three sets in their first face-off of the season. The team had one of their highest energy games, in part thanks to Raagas’ cheering, coach Read said.
“[Raagas] really adds energy to the team and I think that’s what some of the excitement was playing Regis,” Read said. “When a guy does something well, having someone who’s going to go celebrate with them and give them a chest bump … makes you want to play and the game much more enjoyable.”
The team faced a low note this past Saturday when they lost to Emmanuel College in four sets and Wentworth Institute of technology in three, but Regan said the team is still improving as the season progresses.
“When we played Regis we came out great, but we played Emmanuel and we came out kind of slow, but we got it back by the end of the day,” Regan said. “We’re definitely trending up, but it’s sort of something we have to keep in mind and keep working on.”
Moving forward into their conference games, the team is looking to pull ahead while facing the competitive pool of teams.
“Every single game matters, we have a few teams that were preseason nationally ranked, so some really good competition,” Read said. “Last year the top three teams in the conference were ranked in the top 15 in the nation for a lot of the season, so the top third of the conference is really strong.”
The Lions’ will be playing two conference games this Saturday against Emmanuel College at 11 a.m. and Mount Ida at 3 p.m.