Men’s Volleyball Season of Growth
The crowd was screaming. Students were on their feet, clapping slowly, watching the volleyball bounce back and forth over the net. The score was close, and the men’s volleyball team found themselves in the fifth set; there would be no second chances at winning once this set was over. Finally, the ball touched the ground on the opposing team’s side, sending the home crowd into an uproar. The Cairn Highlanders Men’s Volleyball team had done it—they won their final match of the season.
With a roster of ten players, composed of five returning players, two seniors, three brand new players, and three freshmen, the Cairn Men’s Volleyball team had nothing short of a challenging 2017 season.
I had the opportunity to sit down with three members of the team, all of different positions, experience levels, and academic years, and ask several questions, probing their thoughts on the Highlander’s past season.
“It was a struggle,” Matt Gump, sophomore setter explained. “Injuries made it hard for us to hit a stride as a team.” For Gump, the team’s starting setter and veteran volleyball player, his injury prevented him from playing a majority of the season. Having only contributed to a little over half of the season, Gump was benched with a MCL strain and meniscal tear, knee injuries notorious for inhibiting a number of athletes.
Despite the injury, Gump sought to maintain a positive attitude, and learned what it meant to contribute as a teammate who was unable to directly influence the score. The team was able to push past the loss of Gump’s key starting minutes, among other injuries, and establish new levels of trust within practice everyday, looking to shift positions and meet the team’s needs. Stress in new positioning was evident, but Gump explained that as the team practiced each day and rotated positions to find what worked, the stress slowly abated: “When your team trusts you with what you’re supposed to do, it kind of alleviates the stress of everyday play.”
One of the new names on the Highlander roster, and one of the players who was challenged in rotating and experimenting with positioning, is junior Joffrey Rosa. Rosa is known to be a natural athlete and successful sports player both in Cairn’s varsity sports realm and intramural realm. Rosa confessed he joined the volleyball team with hopes of encountering a new sports experience: “It looked like a fun sport, and I hadn’t done it before, and college is a new place to try new things, and since I’m an athlete, I decided to try it.”
“It taught me a lot,” Rosa admitted, “I realized that my best wasn’t gonna be equivalent to the best of someone else’s play, and this was something I had to accept and move on from.” Rosa started as a middle, a difficult position in a standard volleyball rotation, and continued to start in this position throughout the duration of the season. Rosa stated he was readily accepted and welcomed by the other players, and that he learned team dynamic largely influences court play: “As the team got more comfortable on the court, I grew more comfortable. When team chemistry was up, we were up.”
A third player to echo these sentiments is senior captain Andy Willits. Completing his third year with the Highlanders, Willits joined Micah Godshall as a co-captain of the 2017 season, starting every match and leading in statistical categories. Willits explained that although the team this year was considerably young and varied in levels of experience, the most valuable lesson they learned was “losing with character.”
The Highlander’s record at the close of the season was not one to particularly boast about, but nevertheless, Willits divulged that the season caused significant growth in all of the players, including himself. “I had to try to lead in example when it was hard for me to not have a bad attitude about it.” Willits found himself as a key leader both on the court and in example as both Gump and co-captain Godshall sat the bench for most of the season due to enduring injury. “This year taught me to be patient and endure so that I can represent Christianity well and represent good character for the team,” Willits said.
All three players professed their hopes for next season with a positive air and hopeful mindset. “I hope to kind of continue building on the good things we saw this year, and also take into account the fact that this year didn’t go the way we wanted to. So we’ll push into next year and take a fire with us, expecting us to be better than we were this year,” Gump said. Rosa echoed opinions of the same nature, stating: “I plan on returning, and I hope that we have more numbers to stay competitive with ourselves and all of the ranked teams we have to play.”
When asked what he wanted to see happen for next year, Willits had this to share: “Instead of looking at it as what it could have been, you look at what it was. We should continue to build from where we are right now; there are pieces starting to fit together, and I would love to see them continue to do so.”