The Siena Heights men's volleyball team begins their season on Friday, Jan. 20, led by head coach Kim Berrington who is returning for her second season. SHU held their first winning record last season since the inception of the program in 2010, finishing 18-8 overall and 4-2 in the Mideast Conference in 2016.
With the successes last season, Berrington discusses the differences in expectations this year compared to last, "Expectations are very different. Last year our goals were really surrounding around offensive systems and defensive systems, how to play the game and how to work together focusing on tactic and technique. This year we have the bulk of those guys back and they understand philosophically want we want to do. Now we're shifting gears and our expectations are revolved around wins and losses, our actual success on the court."
Of her key returners, Berrington mentions seniors Chris Horner, Matthew Dugan and John Kalugar will be important to the program's upcoming success. Horner will be a key blocker in the middle while Dugan will be an offensive threat for the Saints on the right side in both the front and back row. "John was our libero last year and this year he's moving into an outside attacker position. He'll still be a primary passer for us and one of our best defensive players but we need him to provide some offense for us," states Berrington.
Along with returning the key players to the team, Berrington underlines other keys for the Saints' success, "We have to have good ball control on both offense and defense. As a smaller team, we'll need more opportunities to attack—it might take us two opportunities to kill the ball compared to one. We also need to focus on serving, putting pressure on the other side of the net while also being low error."
A couple newcomers look to make to an immediate impact for the Saints. Freshman Cory Grumbach will be the Saints' defensive specialist along with an effective serve. Setting for SHU this year will be freshman Keegan Crawford. Also looking to make an impact will be junior Ryan Hafner and freshman Julian Ayers.
Men's volleyball has reached Invitational status in the NAIA and they are in the midst of changing conferences heading towards Championship status, pending the addition of more teams. For the 2017 season, the Saints will be in a conference with No. 4 Lourdes (Ohio), No. 8 Hope International (Calif.), Benedictine (Ariz.), UC-Merced (Calif.) and Lawrence Tech.
Siena Heights will head into action on Friday when they travel to Saint Xavier (Ill.) for a 7:30 CST (8:30 EST) non-conference contest.