The Violets have benefited from strong performances across the roster, highlighted by Tandon senior and co-captain Neil Ferraro, who received the Player of the Week honors from both the United Volleyball Conference (UVC) and the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) on the week of Jan. 20. The undefeated record has also propelled the team to a fourth place ranking in the AVCA Division III Men’s Coaches Poll, up nine spots from the preseason. Head Coach Jose Pina credits the team’s continuity and experience.
“The bulk of the starters are made up of seniors, a couple of sophomores, but the rest are seniors,” Coach Pina said. “These are guys who have played together for four years. [This] is a group of experienced players who are of high quality and have really dedicated themselves to making their final season hopefully a special season.”
For those seniors, the focus is not only on the team’s record, but also on cultivating team unity. The coaching staff has challenged them to embrace their roles as leaders of the team.
“[From] the beginning of our freshman year, we have had individual talks with our coaches about how important our class is going to be to the program,” CAS senior and co-captain Evan Lindley said. “In previous years, we were allowing ourselves to get complacent and looking up to other people for leadership. I think, now, our class sees that it is our responsibility, so we have tried to step up as much as possible and foster the development of the younger guys.”
As a captain three years running, his perspective on leadership has matured.
“I have realized … [I should] try to accept people more as individuals…accept the fact each one of us are going to be different and … establish a sense of mutual respect,” Lindley said.
While the team’s seniors headline the roster, their well-rounded roster has also proved beneficial, providing competition in practice and stepping up in games when needed.
“[We have] older guys coming in with a vengeance…and a great freshman class,” Ferraro said. “It’s a good combination altogether.”
To start the season, the Violets went on a three-game road trip to California to compete in the CLU Invitational. With victories against Fontbonne University (3-0), California Lutheran University (3-0) and University of California, Santa Cruz (3-2), the Violets took care of business on the court. Off the court, the trip served as a memorable team bonding experience.
“We had a couple team events,” Stern sophomore James Haag said. “[For example,] we went to the Beach Club in Santa Monica and really just had a great time hanging together.”
As the team looks ahead, they recognize there will be tougher challenges, most notably the two-game run against Springfield College and Stevens Institute of Technology, two teams ranked ahead of them by the AVCA. Lindley has learned from his experience in previous seasons to remain even-keeled despite the team’s excellent start.
Speaking before their sixth win, Lindley said, “It’s exciting to talk about [being fourth] in the nation and [being] … 5-0, but allowing those things to get caught up in our heads has done nothing but hurt us in previous years. So we are trying to think more about getting better every single practice … and every single game.”
While the team maintains focus on the upcoming games, they also recognize the potential this season holds.
“With Neil, Evan and the other seniors, we want to win them the national championship this year,” Haag said.
The team will look to extend their undefeated record at their home court on Feb. 12 against the Sage Colleges.
A version of this article appears in the Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, print edition. Email Kevin Ryu at [email protected]