The new year at the College of Staten Island brings with it a building excitement for the school’s newest sports venture, as the Dolphins Men’s Volleyball program is set for debut January 25. It marks the inauguration of the sports as the College, as it matriculates from its club sport status in each of the past two years. Juan Lopez, a former women’s volleyball assistant who recently completed his first season as head coach of the women’s program this past fall will lead the budding group, the last of the CUNYAC schools to endorse men’s volleyball.
CSI will get underway officially by traveling to Ramapo College for a tri-match with the host school and CUNYAC-rivals CCNY, before opening the home portion of their season on February 5 against New Jersey City University at the Sports & Recreation Center. It marks the start of a 25-game regular season that will culminate with the CUNYAC postseason in late-April.
Lopez is excited about the upcoming season and knows that the entire process will be a learning one.
“I am very excited. Anytime you start something new you have high expectations and the players are all looking forward to competing at the college level. While many of our players and we as coaches have volleyball experience, none of us have done this before, so we are all nervous but anxious. It’s a great feeling for everyone.”
The head coach has a good jumping-off point. Interest in the team has built over the years and as a club team in 2014, the Dolphins performed admirably. The jump to varsity status will come with its share of growing pains, and despite a small roster size, the coach knows that dedication is the focus of his current student-athletes.
“I don’t have any expectations of grandeur,” he said with a smile, “but we have a highly committed team that understands what we are trying to build here and that’s what is the most important. All of our players have improved tremendously and they’ve been doing it together. The focus will be on the development we do as a team and to build on every game and every point, win or lose.
With development will be the key the season, it doesn’t mean the Dolphins do not have the talent to compete well. With players like senior captain Brian Sheydvasser leading the charge, along with players like Justin Edwardsen who highlighted CSI’s club team from a year ago, CSI certainly hopes to be in the mix.
“It’s great to see some of the development in many of our players and one thing I will say about our team is that we have some high-energy and highly-athletic guys who can be very good offensive players,” told Lopez. “Working with some of the men from the club team last season, you could see how much better we are playing simply by being a part of the team and working with one-another every day.”
While everyone is excited about the start, Lopez knows that how the Dolphins finish will be the true measuring stick for the program, and the coach will look to build the program while also lending a keen eye to recruiting some of the area’s best talent.
“Obviously we look for strong and experienced volleyball players. Since this is such a new program we will be recruiting players of all different positions but as coaches we know nothing is set and we expect changes so we will keep an open mind with our personnel moving forward,” the coach said. “Ever since we announced our varsity team we have generated a lot of excitement with many of the high schools and since our seasons don’t coincide we will be able to scout aggressively at the high school level and many local standouts can watch our college team here at CSI.”
With a healthy mix of talented and dedicated players and the promise of bigger and better things to come, CSI Men’s Volleyball promises to have plenty in store for those that come see the team play in its inaugural season. The coach promises a good product worthy of the Dolphins’ name.
“We are going to have a hard working team, a team that plays to the end,” the coach promised. “Our strength is our athleticism, so you will see a lot more action, movement and offense, and we will be trying to out-work our opponents. That will be our calling card.”
Although the Dolphins are always looking to bring home championships, don’t expect the coach to be too fixated on the standings, opting instead to take a game-by-game approach to the season. “We haven’t really sized up who our opponents are yet, or focus our sights on winning this or that. This season will be an exploration of ourselves, to find out a little more about who we are and what we can be, the wins and losses will take care of themselves.”
Admission to all CSI home games are free and PG CLUE Certified for all students. After the home opener, CSI’s conference opener will be played on February 7 against defending conference-champion Baruch College played at John Jay College in Manhattan. The team’s conference home opener will be against the same Bearcats team on February 19. The CUNYAC Tournament begins on April 7 and extends through April 10 at Hunter College.