The 2014 season for the Spartans didn’t quite match the magic that was the 1989 championship season, however it had its share of great moments. It all started with the 24th “Back to the Hardwood Classic” which remains the largest preseason tournament in the country, this year having an impressive 53 teams over two divisions. The Spartans had a strong showing, reaching the gold bracket despite being a very young team with seven underclassmen. In the winter the Spartans hosted the “Holiday Classic” an annual tournament in which many alumni come back to IM West to re-experience the competitive environment that is a men’s club volleyball tournament. The Holiday Classic is less about volleyball and more about the giving spirit and Michigan State Men’s Volleyball family that comes over all of us during the Holidays. This year half of all tournament proceeds were donated to the Lansing area. We also had a food donation box into which many spectators and participants of the tournament graciously donated canned foods.
Spring semester started off with the “10th Annual Battle in St. Joe.” Throughout the day, the Green team ran a clinic for young volleyball players (K-12) from the surrounding area. After the clinic, the Spartans went up against Notre Dame. The game did not go the Spartans way, losing 3-2, but was a great environment and a great match mainly due to the fact that many of the clinic participants came to the game and created an awesome environment for the match. We look forward to participating in the “11th Annual Battle in St Joe” next year. White started off strong, losing in the finals of the silver bracket at the Wolverine Winter Classic, as well as a strong showing in the Big Ten Division 2 round robin.
Like White, Green had a very promising round robin but came up short in the end. Green faced the unusual circumstance of not having head Coach Sante Perelli at the tournament, as well as some minor injuries. Green went 4-5 (6th place) and showed that they could compete against the top teams in the big ten. The first day included wins against Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. The lone loss of the day was an epic match against Wisconsin. Green lost the first set (25-12) but rebounded in resounding fashion to win the second (25-21) and eventually, after the majority of spectators and players in the gym came to our court to watch the battle, lost the third set (23-21) . The Second day included a win against Northwestern, although it also included losses against experienced teams of Purdue and Ohio State. The last match of the tournament was another hard-fought loss against a talented Minnesota team. Green just barely lost the first set (28-26) and made a strong recovery in the second (25-22) but was then defeated in the third (15-9).
The next major tournament of the season was the Hoosier-Illini Classic. The Spartans had a rough first day facing the injuries of setter Colin Ryan (ankle) and middle Jack Ribar (back) but worked incredibly hard, and had an amazing second day going (4-0). On the second day Green defeated, Indiana B, Illinois B, GVSU (#16 ranking at the time), and finished off the day defeating the hosts Indiana in straight sets (25-21, 25-23) to win the silver bracket.
Time heals all wounds, however, the Spartans needed just a little more time as Colin Ryan and Jack Ribar still faced injuries for the Big Ten Championship tournament at Purdue University. Despite these injuries the Spartans, as they always do, played with heart and passion at Big Ten’s. The Spartans started strong with yet another win against the fighting Illini, and a loss against Ohio State in pool play, only to get a tough draw against Purdue in bracket play. The Spartans fought tough but ended the tournament with a loss to eventual champions Purdue.
Next up on the schedule was the MIVA Championship tournament, a critical tournament in deciding seeding for the National Championships. Green started pool play off with a two set win against Notre Dame (27-25, 25-17), Later on in the day the Green team went on to lose to the eventual national champions – UW-Oshkosh in two. Green after a tough defeat rebounded and took down the NIU Huskies in two sets (25-20, 25-21). To finish off pool play, the Green team went up against the Wisconsin Badgers and lost in two, finishing the day with a record of 2-2. The second day started with Green in the Gold bracket facing a familiar foe in GVSU. Unfortunately GVSU came on strong and never looked back beating the Spartans (25-16, 25-21). After the loss the Spartans were dropped down into the silver bracket. The tournament ended in quite interesting fashion, Green, after the loss to GVSU, was set to face off against Minnesota. However, Minnesota ended up forfeiting the match, likely because they were scared of the Spartans, or the 9 hour drive looming over them, you decide. Either way the Golden Gophers decided to forfeit, putting the Spartans in the final against Michigan. However due to the Spartans long drive and the fact that Green had played Michigan many times before the team presidents mutually decided not to play the match.
The final tournament of the year as always is the National Championship. This year the tournament was in Reno, Nevada. On the first day Green went up against Sacramento State (California State University, Sacramento) the #6 team in the country. The match went to three sets and was a battle to the end, but Sac State pulled it out in the third set beating the Spartans (25-27, 25-19, 15-8). The next match was against another highly ranked team in #16 Penn State. It was a battle throughout, but Penn State executed better and won (25-21, 26-24). At this point the Spartans were 0-2 but were playing great volleyball and just came up short against other great teams. The Spartans rebounded and defeated UW-Whitewater in the last match of pool play (25-23, 25-27, 15-9) to finish the day 1-2 and still have a chance at the gold bracket. Catching no breaks, the Spartans drew Cal Poly in a challenge match to start off the second day of the tournament. Unfortunately Jack Ribar (sophomore, MB) aggravated a recurring back injury after the first day of play. However in true Spartan fashion Matt “Buddha” Petry (junior, MB) stepped up and had his match of the year, and along with his fellow middle Eddie Gazaryan (sophomore) dominated the Cal Poly middles. Green fought incredibly hard in a great match against Cal Poly but ultimately Cal Poly won in three sets (25-18, 23-25, 15-8). Green still having a chance at the silver bracket was set to face off against Utah Valley State and Cincinnati in one of the afternoon’s consolation pools. Utah Valley State came out strong and the Spartans fought hard to seal their position in the silver bracket, but couldn’t withstand the Wolverines attack losing in three sets (28-26, 16-25, 11-15). After the tough match against Utah Valley State, the Spartans struggled to beat a strong Cincinnati team losing in two sets (25-19, 25-22). On the final day of the season, and the tournament, the Spartans were set to play Liberty in the first round of the bronze bracket. In a match where the young Spartan team could not muster enough energy on the court after a long tournament, the Spartan Seniors played with incredible passion and courageous effort. Green was unable to send its seniors: Juan Manfredi (Outside, Captain), Mike Gemkow (Outside) and Spencer “Squintz” Johnson (Defensive Specialist), out with a win. This disappointment will be used as extra motivation during the offseason and the upcoming season to ensure that every Spartan senior from now on goes out with a win.
Last but not least, as most of you know, this was the 25th anniversary of the 1989 MIVA Championship team. In late March Michigan State University Men’s Club volleyball alumni and current players came back to East Lansing from all over the globe to celebrate 25 years of life changing experiences, amazing friendships and lasting memories. Many alumni made speeches. The most memorable, however, was the speech by Paul Patyk (Club President of the 1989 team) who reminded former and current players of the great tradition the club has. One thing Paul said in particular that really hit home with those in attendance was that when he played, he viewed the court as his ‘sanctuary.’ Or, in other words, the court allowed him to focus solely on volleyball and temporarily avoid the stresses in life that most of us face. After Paul Patyk spoke, Coach Sante Perrelli was next on the list. Coach Sante’s speech, as usual, came from the heart and had the whole room listening attentively to his every word. Coach expressed how important his family had been to him throughout his life and during the process of building the club program – a sentiment we all share in regard to our own families. Coach, similar to Paul Patyk shared with the current players the rich tradition that the club has and that it is now our turn to keep and build on. Overall it was a great event for alumni and current players to experience and truly see how diverse the club is.