The men’s volleyball team went 13-13 this season, the first time the program posted a not-losing record in its six-year history. Despite being eliminated from the first round of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference playoffs on April 7, the team ranked among the best in the country in several statistical categories.
“[The .500 record] was a testament to the guys working hard the last few years and bringing in some big recruits,” said head coach Ben Read.
The sixth-seeded Lions were swept by the third-seeded Wentworth Institute of Technology Leopards in the GNAC quarterfinal on April 7 by scores of 25-21, 25-20, and 25-17. Emerson led Wentworth 7-6 in the first set and tied the score 14 times throughout the match.
“The team is bigger and more physical than we were, and we held right in there,” said Read. “Offensively, we outhit them in the first set; it was just a matter of them picking up more kills and points and serving really tough.”
Emerson ranks sixth in the conference for blocks and was outblocked by Wentworth in the match, six to four. Freshman Nick Rusk said the team plans to improve in this area in the offseason.
“For me personally, I have a hard time [blocking],” said the visual and media arts major. “When we did put up blocks against Wentworth, [the blocks] were thrown off, because we weren’t ready for it.”
Read said the quarterfinal game was one of his team’s best performances of the season.
“With us playing as competitively as we did, we actually saw a whole other level out of Wentworth,” said Read. “They had to play the best they’ve had to play against us this year to beat us.”
Rusk said the tough matchup actually took some pressure off the team.
“[For us,] it was kind of just go out, have fun, and play,” said the outside hitter. “It was better than going out with the mentality that we had to win.”
Outside hitter Jackson Wiley led the conference in overall kills and kills per set—his 4.35 was also good for second in Division III.
“Despite the fact that teams know he’s getting the ball, he’s getting better, which is just awesome,” said Read.
With the contributions of junior libero Jared Gross and Rusk, who finished first and second respectively in digs per set in the GNAC, Emerson had the fifth-most digs per set in the nation.
“They are the one-two punch defensively,” said Read. “They keep a lot of balls in play.”
Emerson’s nine-man roster—the smallest in the GNAC—is losing just one player in the offseason, senior Connor Burton. Burton, an outside hitter and captain for the past three seasons, has been on staff and written for the Beacon.
Read said increasing his roster depth in the offseason will be vital to competing with tougher teams.
“We’ve had that core group of seven guys who have just busted their butts this year,” said Read. “I’m really proud of where they’ve been, [both with] competing and staying healthy.”