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The Courier

College of DuPage's Student Newspaper

The Courier

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COD Men’s Volleyball Secures Third Place in National Invitational Tournament

The Chaparrals placed third in the NJCAA Invitational after winning three of six games in three days.
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Rachel Wagner

The College of DuPage men’s volleyball team experienced deja vu while facing regional rivals Bryant & Stratton College on the final day of the NJCAA Invitational tournament on April 14. After a disappointing 1-3 loss last season, the Chaparrals came ready to fight despite three starters being deemed ineligible before the tournament. The two familiar programs battled back and forth, pushing the action into a fifth set.

The Bobcats were leading before one of their starting players went down with an injury late in the match. After calling a timeout, COD came back and grasped the lead. This time around, the Chaps flew over the Bobcats to place third at nationals with a 3-3 record, ending their season with an 8-15 record.

“I’m happy for the guys; mostly for the sophomores that helped start the program,” head volleyball coach Tolis Koskinaris said. “They saw it through to the end. It’s a lot because we have a pretty demanding spring season. It’s a long ride, and these guys stuck through it.”

Sophomore left side Erik Perez leaps into the air to spike the ball. (Rachel Wagner)

Game One VS Nassau Community College

COD shut out Nassau Community College during the regular season, but the Chaps had to put out a different lineup due to missing three starters. The Chaparrals struggled to find consistency against the Lions, who came out with dependable serving and mechanical skill. COD lost their rhythm just as quickly as they found it. The Chaps fell to the Lions 3-1, and the final scores of the sets were 23-25, 21-25, 25-15 and 25-27.

“That one for all of us was very frustrating,” assistant volleyball coach Frank Martinez said. “Credit to Nassau, they came out and played a very solid game. They executed the game plan they were trying to and obviously succeeded. On our end we could’ve picked it up, but sometimes you have matches like that.”

Sophomore left side Mike Fenley led the team with 11 kills on 26 attacks, but he made five errors. He also made eight digs. Fighting through an ankle injury, this was Fenley’s only complete match of the tournament. He said it was hard to stay out of the action the rest of the way.

“Other teams know that I’m capable of being dominant on the court, especially when I get hot,” Fenley said. “It was annoying to hear other teams that have seen what I can do ask me why I wasn’t playing and not have an explanation. It was pretty shocking to me, but at this level, you need to [remember] that we’re all a team collectively. It was a very humbling experience, and I’m glad I got to experience that.”

Freshman middle hitter Vincent Arias landed 10 kills on 23 attacks with six errors. He also put up one block assist. Arias started playing in the right-side position at the beginning of the tournament, which gave COD different offensive strategies to take advantage of.

“I played middle [hitter] all year, and I’ve only ever played middle [hitter] my whole life,” Arias said. “I always wanted to try and play right side, which is what I did. That helped us change up our attacks because I was able to run middle attacks [on the right side] while the other middle ran different middle attacks.”

Freshman setter Nathan Perez made 41 assists and two kills on six attacks with two errors. He also scored on two service aces and put up one block assist. After spending all season in the libero position, Perez became the primary setter at the start of the tournament in sophomore setter Phurin Kosumapinun’s absence.

“You’ve got to stay adaptable,” Perez said. “Coming up in my volleyball career, I started as setter. Then I transitioned to libero, and then outside [hitter]. I’ve kind of been all over and interchangeable within every position. That’s a key part of the game, being able to get put in at any position and just give it your all.”

Freshman libero Ben Hoover dives to receive the ball. (Rachel Wagner)

Game Two VS Ocean County College

The Chaparrals took down Ocean County College 3-1 in their last matchup, and they continued to have this team’s number this season. With lingering upset from their first loss of the tournament, COD was firing on all cylinders. The Chaps outperformed the Vikings in a 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-17) shutout victory.

Freshman outside hitter Sam Molitor led the team with seven kills on 13 attacks but made four errors. He also made two block assists and one dig. COD went into the tournament without three of their starting players, but Molitor gave credit to the teammates who stepped in.

“It definitely threw us off, how it would any team,” Molitor said. “I’m happy with how the guys who did come in picked up the slack. They didn’t focus on it being their time to shine, but it was their chance to help out the team.”

Freshman middle hitter Justus Barbel also dominated on offense, spiking six kills on seven attacks. He also led the team with four service aces, four block assists and made two digs. He said their game against Ocean was their most team-oriented win of the tournament.

“Our connections and everything else were just perfect,” Barbel said. “Everyone was together; we weren’t bickering, and we were just one unit. Nobody faltered. The only points [Ocean] got were because they made an incredible play; it wasn’t on us.”

Game Three VS Monroe College

Going into day two of the tournament, DuPage went to battle with Monroe College for the third time this season after splitting their games during the Monroe College tournament in February. The scores stayed close through all three sets, but the Mustangs’ serving and defense gave them the edge over the Chaps. COD couldn’t break through and got shut out 0-3. The final scores of the sets were 19-25, 20-25 and 17-25.

“[Monroe] played at a very high level,” Koskinaris said. “This was the third time we played them this year, and our matchups against them were very good. We always feel like that’s the team that we want to get ahead of.”

Molitor spiked eight kills on 16 attacks with three errors. He also picked up one block assist. Fenley matched Molitor’s offensive efforts with eight kills on 19 attacks with three errors. He said that not starting the game gave him insight on how to respond against the Mustangs.

“It was pretty easy for me to adjust after sitting out for a set,” Fenley said. “I came in pretty [rigid], but I was observing everything on the sidelines.”

Sophomore Stanley Guziec spikes the ball past two blockers. (Rachel Wagner)

Game Four VS Northampton Community College

After taking the fifth seed in the tournament for the second consecutive year, DuPage met with Northampton Community College (seeded fifth) for the first time ever. With brutal attacking power, the Chaps landed 39 kills to the Spartans’ 19. COD secured their second shutout victory of the tournament; the final scores of all the sets were 25-14, 25-18 and 25-23.

“We started off strong,” Martinez said. “We did a great job once we felt we were in control. We were running our middle [hitters] a lot, which allowed the rest of our offense to start flowing smoothly. When we were in business with our middles, it created a nice path to success for us.”

Barbel led the team, landing 12 kills on 17 attacks with one error. He also led the team with three block assists, scored on three service aces and made two digs. After this match, Barbel explained what the team did before heading into day three of the tournament.

“Coach said we all had to be together before our next game,” Barbel said. “We relaxed, which was a big thing for us. In the season when we were together, we were always trying to do something active. It was good for us to just chill out and be together.”

Arias spiked seven kills on 11 attacks. He also put up one block assist and made one dig. In transitioning to the right side role he struggled with hitting, but found success by staying focused on defense.

Game Five VS Finger Lakes Community College

Freshman setter Nathan Perez makes an overhand serve. (Rachel Wagner)

On the final day of the tournament, COD battled top-seeded Finger Lakes Community College. Before this match, the Chaparrals had gotten shut out by the Lakers in every previous meeting. DuPage looked like they were about to upset the reigning national champions after taking the second and third set, but Finger Lakes’ serving did them in. The Chap fell to the Lakers in five sets, as the Lakers went on to win nationals for the second straight year. The final scores of the sets were 22-25, 26-24, 27-25, 16-25 and 10-15.

Molitor led the offensive charge, spiking 18 kills on 39 attacks with eight errors. He also jumped one block assist and made one dig. He said their game against the Lakers was the most intense of the tournament.

“You could feel the energy that we had the whole game,” Molitor said. “[You could feel] the urgency everybody had, because we had to win [to advance]. We played our most team-oriented play the whole season. We were out there for each other.”

Arias landed nine kills on 28 attacks with five errors. Defensively, he put up one solo block and three block assists and made two digs. After missing the first two games against the Lakers earlier in the season, he said he was looking forward to his opportunity to play against them.

“This was my first time facing them, which was really exciting because they have some really good players,” Arias said. “Taking two sets off of them and taking them to five [sets] was just a really great feeling.”

Perez recorded a season-high 47 assists and spiked one kill on four attacks. He also made 10 digs. Perez said Finger Lakes’ defense made it hard for spikers to score consistently.

“[The Lakers] are a very defensive team,” Perez said. “There wasn’t a ball that hit the ground that someone wasn’t diving for, if not two guys. With that mentality on a team, it makes it very hard for a team like us or a team like Monroe to put the ball away.”

Game Six VS Bryant & Stratton College

Freshmen middle hitters Vincent Arias and Justus Barbel put up a two-man block. (Rachel Wagner)

COD kept Bryant & Stratton from taking control with dependable blocking and offense. Flipping the script on the Bobcats, the Chaps claimed victory in five sets. The final scores of the sets were 29-31, 25-23, 16-25, 25-23 and 15-12.

Molitor stayed hot offensively, landing one kill on 44 attacks with nine errors. He also put up one solo block and two block assists. In his time on the court, he said playing in the same row as Barbel and Arias kept his energy up.

“I loved Justus’s and Vinny’s energy up in the front row,” Molitor said. “No matter what happened, they’re onto the next play. It was great to have all season long. It definitely helped with me when I would make a bad play; both of them were there just to pick me back up.”

Barbel spiked 14 kills on 33 attacks with five errors. He also led the team with six block assists, jumped one solo block and made eight digs.

“We left it all out there,” Barbel said. “This was the best we’ve played all year, and the most together we’ve played. I couldn’t be happier with this outcome.”

Perez made 45 assists and one kill on five attacks with two errors. He also made five digs and one block assist. He said the Chaps’ last time out during the fifth set after being behind the Bobcats stood out to him as a defining moment in the tournament.

“We knew we weren’t playing for first [place], but we knew we had to get third,” Perez said. “The right people stepped up, said the right things and everybody locked in. We had to climb that ladder and find it within ourselves because we wanted third. After that last point, seeing all of the sophomores and seeing coach get emotional really touched me.”

After placing higher in the tournament than they did last season, Koskinaris reflected on the inaugural year of the men’s team, saying next season will be about learning how to win.

“Knock on wood, but I think we’re going to be taking a big leap forward next year,” Koskinaris said. “If you build culture, and if you do this the right way, guys will come on their own. This place is going to be very competitive for a very long time, even after me. Whenever that day is, you’ve just got to build it right. That’s what we’re trying to do right now. Every year, we’re just going to keep going up.”

If you want to learn more about this season of COD men’s volleyball, visit gochapsgo.com.

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