Four Pirates earn All-America Honors

Matheus Teles, Editor

Despite the fact the 2020 volleyball season ended early due to COVID-19, four players on the Park men’s volleyball team have reason to celebrate. Luciano Bucci, Felipe Chagas, Felipe Guirau and Hiago Crins were named 2020 American Volleyball Coaches Association NAIA All-Americans and earned All-America honors.

“It’s always a good feeling to have your work recognized; these awards are the recompense of our team every day hard work,” said Crins, the junior opposite hitter for the Park men’s volleyball team.

The team had its first games in the end of January, but their practices started in fall 2019. For the players, the fact the team have been working together for a long time made a huge impact inside the court.

“With the team we had and for how much we worked in order to make the nationals the feeling is amazing,” said Chagas, the junior middle blocker for the Pirates. “We worked hard every single day for it.”

Volleyball is a collective sport and each individual inside the court is important for the team. The Pirates had 10 returners for the 2020 season, and the fact that the players know each other well was able to help them to succeed.

Bucci, who won 2020 AMC/GPAC/KCAC Conference Setter of the Year honor, said that his teammates performed in a very high level which made his job easy.

“My teammates helped me a lot; volleyball is a team sport and without your teammates you don’t win,” Bucci said.

The players are also led by someone who has experience and is a five-time national champion. Mike Talamantes, the coach for the Park men’s volleyball team, started his ninth season leading the Pirates this semester.

Bucci said that after the team lost their game in the national championship last year, he and Talamantes had a conversation that completely changed the setter’s mindset and made him spend the fall semester getting ready physically and mentally for this 2020 season.

For Guirau, a junior outside hitter on the team, Talamantes was extremely important for him because he was the only one reminding him of what he was capable of.

“When I had that days where things weren’t going the way I wanted, he kept pushing me no matter what and never let me think about giving up,” Guirau said.

The All-American honor was not something new for Guirau. This is the second time the Brazilian has been named an All-American in his college career.

“Being recognized for two years back-to-back is something that gives me a lot of motivation, it’s day after day pushing myself to be the best I can,” Guirau said.

According to Guirau, he sets goals for himself and for the team before the start of every season. He also said that he pushes himself to the limit, and he is never satisfied with what he got because he knows that there is always room for improvement.

Crins also won more than one award this season. The Brazilian opposite hitter, who was ranked as third in the NAIA in blocks per game, was named 2020 Conference Defender of the Year, and he was also elected National Defender of the Week for two weeks in a row.

Crins, who played the last two seasons for the Pirates as a middle blocker, said changing to the opposite hitter position made a huge impact in his game. According to him, the difference from this two positions is that as an opposite, he has more play time and gets more balls than as a middle blocker.

He also said that this change did not affect his performance because he always gives his best, and he is very proud of his teammates.

“I’m proud of the whole team,” Crins said. “Our team got psychological mature over the last years, and it made a lot of difference in decisive moments.”

The 2020 season ended in a way that none of the players would expect. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NAIA decided to cancel out the 2020 Spring season for all the sports. The players said that after their last regular season game they received the news.

Chagas said that he and his teammates had thought that this would happen after some other leagues canceled their games as well.

“We already had the fear of it, but after NBA got canceled that night we knew that it would happen with us soon,” Chagas said, “It was frustrating.”

Even though the players felt frustrated after their season got canceled, they set high expectations for their next season.

Bucci said he is already excited for the next season because he thinks that his team can do a better job than this year. For him, the team’s season was good because they only lost one game to the No.1 nationally ranked team.

According to Chagas, bringing the national title to Parkville in the next year is his main goal. The player also said that he will use his next season at Park to improve his volleyball skills.

“I will take that extra season, use it as an opportunity to grow, lead and enjoy more volleyball with my teammates,” Chagas said.

The Pirates ended their season with a 12-1 record and were ranked as the third best men’s volleyball team in the country.