Men’s Volleyball learning from last year’s mistakes

The Park men’s volleyball team started its season on Jan. 21. The five-time NAIA national champions had the fall 2019 semester to improve their fitness and technique. Now, in the spring, the Pirates have 19 games until the end of March, when the National Championship tournament starts.

This year the team, coached by Mike Talamantes, has 10 players returning for Park and three freshmen. Talamentes is starting his ninth season as a coach for the Pirates. He has earned two National Championship rings with the men’s team in that time.

The team is culturally diverse and has players from all over the world. The roster has 10 Brazilians, one Serbian, one Italian and one Spaniard.

Gabriel Soares, a freshman outside hitter, is one Brazilian players. The 17-year-old is beginning his first college season. He arrived at Park in the beginning of January.

“My first days here at Park are being pretty nice. I’m enjoying the classes, the practices and I also like to live in Chestnut,” Soares said.

The outside hitter said he received help from his teammates in his first days here, and this help has made things easier for him.

“The thing that attracted me the most is the fact that my teammates are being really nice to me and they are helping me a lot,” he said. “Besides that, the practices are pretty tough and good.”

Last year, the players were not able to win the National Championship, but two of them were honored with individual awards.

Felipe Guirau, a junior outside hitter, was one of those two. Guirau had 331 kills and was chosen to be part of the All-Conference team. He was also named a 2019 NAIA Honorable Mention All-American.

According to Guirau, the key things that enabled him to achieve this individual goal were the team and his coach. He said that he and his teammates worked hard every day during the last season, and it led to him being named an All-Conference player.

“I pushed myself to my limits every day. I always gave 100 percent during practices. I worked hard inside and outside the court,” Guirau said. “Everything combined made me achieve this goal by the end of the season.”

The 2020 season will be the last one for three Pirates. Leandro Sodre, Hiago Crins and Mateus Martins are the only seniors in the team and will play their last college season this spring.

Martins, a libero, arrived at Park in the spring of 2017. In his first season as a Pirate he won the National Championship with his team. Since then, he has played 185 sets for Park University, with a total of 27 digs and seven assists. The Brazilian is in his seventh semester in the United States and described his time at Park as an amazing journey.

“I met different people from all over the world. I had a very good coaching staff throughout my whole college career, and I’m looking forward to the last one,” he said.

According to Martins, during his years at Park he could learn a new thing every season with all the teammates that he had, and this is something he considers very special.

The Pirates have already played three games this season and have 3-0 record so far.

Martins said that the team is more mature this year, and they learned from last year’s mistakes.

“We watched some games from last season and saw what we did wrong, what we did right and now we will try to fix those mistakes,” he said.

According to Guirau, the team is ready and their mental strength is improved. He also said that Coach Talamantes is playing a very important role by showing the mistakes from last season to them in order to fix them.

“Coach is always trying to get the best out of us. He talks to us during practices. He reminds us about the things that we did wrong last year, so we can be a better team during this season,” Guirau said.

The players said they have high expectations and hope to win another championship for Park University.

“I see the team winning the championship because we are working hard for it,” Soares said. “It is our main goal.”

The Pirates play their first conference game on Jan. 29 against Ottawa University. The team will host the 2020 Pirate Invitational Tournament at Breckon Sports Center on Feb. 7-8. At 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 7 the team will play Mount Mercy University. The team will face off against Missouri Valley College and Park University-Gilbert on Feb. 8 The first conference home game in regular play is at 6 p.m. on Feb. 12 against Missouri Baptist University.