When Stephen Selnick and Frank O’Sullivan took the court Tuesday night against Mount Ida, much had changed since their first practice as freshmen four years ago.
That practice had been the first-ever as a varsity sport for Emerson’s men’s volleyball team. For one thing, there were probably no vuvuzeulas.
It was senior night for the Lions, and the two players were honored for their achievements over the loudspeaker. They were given bouquets of flowers — Selnick by his mother and father and O’Sullivan by his friends, one of whom brought the plastic pink instrument.
“I definitely [fed off the environment], and the rest of the team did too. Having some loud people in the building always helps,” O’Sullivan said of the atmosphere. The outside hitter was also celebrating his birthday that night, and his friends sang to that as well.
At the officials’ discretion, the friends were unable to sound the horn, but nevertheless showed their support with loud, offbeat cheers.
Both Selnick and O’Sullivan said the team has come along way since that inaugural season.
“It [was] tough being a first-year team and not having players who have been playing for more than a year, or ever for that matter,” said Selnick, a co-captain. “But the progress we’ve made in four years is awesome. I couldn’t be happier with it. I’m extremely proud of where we are now.”
When the match began, the two original members made it senior night in both name and deed, as they swept Mount Ida 3-0 in under an hour. O’Sullivan swung for .556 percent, raining down strikes on the Mustangs right from the start. He finished with seven kills and four blocks and scored the final point to complete the rout.
Selnick ran the offense smoothly at setter, finishing with 24 assists. On the opposing end, however, Mount Ida’s attack looked visibly stunted and committed several blunders. Spencer Hastings hit the net several times, and the second game ended on a bad set by Franklin McCaffrey.
Head coach Ben Read said he was happy to see the entire team together and playing well for the final home game.
“We’ve had so many injuries, and with different class schedules, we’ve been missing someone almost all year,” said Read.
O’Sullivan has been hampered by a shoulder injury at times.
“I can’t get too frustrated about that ... I at least got to play in this game, and it was a good one,” said O’Sullivan, who studies music performance at Berklee College of Music.
After beating the winless Mustangs, the Lions will face Johnson and Wales (RI) Thursday. This matchup will be much closer, according to Read.
“They’re a team who can compete with anyone. We’ve showed we can do that too, it just matters who’s playing better that day,” he said. Read is in his first year at Emerson, and said that while he cannot attest to how far the team has come since its inception, he feels that it has improved even from the first game of this season.
“I think we’ve come leaps and bounds this year, from back in the fall till now,” he said.
Emerson defeated the Wildcats earlier this season, but it took five sets. The Lions have three remaining games, including another meeting with Mount Ida. They currently sit at sixth place.
Selnick reiterated that this year’s team was the best he had been on at Emerson and the most fun out of any in his career. The Lions have not yet won a playoff game in their short history, and Selnick said he hopes the team can do so in his final season.
“Three out of the four teams that can make playoff spots, we’ve beaten,” he said. “I feel good about a first-round playoff game — we just need to get there first.”