Jared Gross is not the most physically imposing volleyball player. At 5-foot-9, he’s easily the shortest player on the Emerson men’s team. Despite that hurdle, the sophomore from Wexford, Pa. managed to finish second in all of Division 3, with 3.25 digs per set.
“I don’t want to make a deal out of it. It’s just a stat,” Gross said. “It’s pretty awesome; highlight of a pretty good season for me.”
Brandon Stitt from Penn State-Altoona was first with a 3.34 digs per set average. There are currently 66 Division 3 men’s volleyball member institutions nationally.
Gross’ 3.25 digs per set were nearly twice as many as any active player on the Lions. Sophomore Jackson Wiley was the next closest, with an average of 1.67 digs per set.
A dig is when a player passes a hard-driven ball by the opposing team, stopping it from hitting the ground, keeping the point in progress for the defending team.
Gross said he credits the team’s defensive system for allowing him to have the ability to rank highly in the digs category.
“We had a defense that was designed around me,” Gross said. “It kind of funneled a lot of the best hitters towards me. Overall, I played better than I thought I would.”
This season, the Lions finished with an 11-15 record before falling to the Emmanuel Saints in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference quarterfinals. Sophomore Ben Hillman said he credits Gross for allowing Emerson to be as successful as they were.
“We’ve been able to get many points that we shouldn’t have because we have that caliber of a player,” Hillman said. “In my opinion, he is the best player out there. You wouldn’t think that a guy that’s under 6-feet would be the best player on a volleyball team.”
Gross’ success on the court has led the Lions to shift their defense so that he can be as active as possible.
“We really try to design our defense around getting the ball to him,” Hillman said. “We’ll set up a block so that the ball will be funneled to him. He’s taking that opportunity and he’s running with it.”
Emerson faced numerous hurdles throughout the year. The team had to deal with injuries to key players like sophomore transfer Dimitri Gorenc, and the departure of freshman Stanson Afoa. Gross said he liked how the team was able to overcome those obstacles.
“We faced a lot of adversity this season,” Gross said. “With what we had, we made the most of it. We got some big wins against some good teams.”
Deputy sports editor Connor Burton did not edit this story because he is on the men’s volleyball team.