Buffalo, NY - Under new leadership in 2018, the D'Youville men's volleyball team has set out to right the ship and return to their winning ways this season.
First year head coach Hans Schroeder takes over for the men after serving as assistant coach for each of the previous three seasons. He believes that his experience as an assistant coach over the last several years will allow him to be a better head coach.
"Being an assistant coach the past several years, especially with this team, has allowed me to approach the sport, the game, players, the team and just about everyone involved with a more open perspective," said Schroeder.
The team will rely on their balance of veteran players and newcomers to build the team for the future. D'Youville's roster balance has Schroeder excited for what he team is capable of.
"We return a core group of our roster/starting rotation with the addition to some new key role players," he said. "I expect us to approach this season with a strong sense of urgency to perform and compete at the level we know we can on a more consistent basis. I expect to compete for a NEAC (North Eastern Athletic Conference) championship as a serious contender."
Leading the team will be senior outside hitter Pat Stroh (Hamburg, NY/Hamburg). In 2017, Pat was an AMCC (Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference) First Team All-Conference and NEAC Second Team All-Conference player. He led D'Youville in kills (303), kills/set (3.84), hitting percentage (.207) and was second in digs (111), service aces (27) and service aces/set (0.34) in his first season at D'Youville. In the AMCC, Stroh led the conference in kills/set and finished second in kills. However in the NEAC, Stroh led the conference in kills/set and finished eighth in kills. When it came to conference play in the NEAC, the 6-5 junior finished second overall in kills. He also finished third in service aces/set and fourth in service aces in the AMCC.
Fellow senior and middle blocker Logan Krass (Oswego, NY/Oswego) comes off a season in which he was named the team's most improved player and finished the season second in hitting percentage (.193), blocks (34) and blocks/set (0.49) while he was third in kills (124) and kills/set (1.80). In her junior season, Logan had career highs in kills, assists, service aces, blocks, digs, sets and matches played. Libero James Zeiger (Lancaster, NY/Lancaster) is coming off a career year where he had highs in digs (79) and matches played (16) and will also be looking to contribute significantly in 2018.
Juniors Zac Bochacki (West Seneca, NY/West Seneca West) and Ryan Kilijanski (West Seneca, NY/West Seneca West) will be playing bigger roles this season with Bochacki moving to outside hitter and Kilijanski taking over as the team's setter. Bochacki registered career highs in every statistical category last season and finished the season top five in kills, kills/set, and led the team in blocks/set. Kilijanski was second on the team in kills, registering a career high 146. He also recorded career highs in blocks and service aces while finishing fourth in digs.
Lone sophomore Karl Jauch (Lockport, NY/Starpoint) will have an expanded role this year as a setter and defensive specialist. Freshmen Ali Khadra (Williamsville, NY/Williamsville East), James Oliver (Williamsville, NY/Williamsville South), Matt Marzec (Amherst, NY/Williamsville North), and Danny Steck (Lancaster, NY/St. Francis) will all look to compete for playing time and make big impacts in their first seasons for D'Youville.
Coach Schroeder is setting the bar high for his team and himself in his first season, pushing the Spartans this year and creating expectations for the future.
"Expectations leading into the 2018 season are high," stated Schroeder. "Despite our lack of success in the 2017 campaign we are back with reinforcements on our growing roster size and with a new team identity that is becoming stronger everyday. The expectations I hold for myself here at D'Youville is to keep striving towards the ultimate goal of representing our conference in the NCAA postseason tournament."
The men begin their season on the road for their first six matches before their first home match. Schroeder sees that as a big test for his team but is excited to have his team tested early.
"The toughest part of our schedule will probably be the beginning and the end of the season," said Schroeder. "We start our season with back to back away tournaments with non conference match ups."
"Some very competitive opponents mixed in with some new competition we haven't faced off against before," he continued. "The winter/spring season can be long and tough filled with nagging injuries, constant repetitions, long road trips away from home, and a full plate with academics. So keeping these guys focused with achieving our ultimate goal is a necessity."
Being named a head coach meant balancing two different approaches for Schroeder. Being able to work with players individually, but also making sure to work with the team as one. With his elevated position from assistant to head coach, he will merge his two coaching styles to get the best out of his team.
"With coaching volleyball, or any sport for that matter, I'm sure there is a relative recipe for success," he said. "But I have learned that with teaching any skill, you cannot compare apples to oranges; meaning that I have to approach each player I'm coaching with a more personalized design to make them the most well rounded and efficient player I can but while still focusing on the team aspect."
"As an assistant," he continued, "I worked a lot with the one-on-one approach, and now that I'm head coach, morphing the two together with focus on individual needs/team needs I find that we will be on the fast track to progress."
D'Youville will begin their AMCC schedule with their first home match on Wednesday, January 31 as they host the Penn State-Behrend Lions. On Sunday, February 11, the men will host Thiel, Hiram, and Medaille in an AMCC quad-match. Looking to this season and seasons to come, Schroeder is looking to build a perennial powerhouse and make D'Youville a noted name in volleyball.
"With the direction this men's volleyball program is moving, especially with the driving force and support behind all of our athletic teams here at D'Youville, I can see the conference standings shifting from the norm," Schroeder exclaimed. "Currently we are ranked in the preseason polls for the NEAC at number seven. We expect to see that change in our favor. Games are won in practice, and we are preparing the way we should be to fulfill our goals."