Men’s volleyball team in first season
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — As was also the case during the fall semester, St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, has debuted another new sport.
The school’s men’s volleyball team opened play for its inaugural season on Jan. 10 and joined the women’s soccer team as the second new sport for the Terriers this school year.
Collegiate men’s volleyball is still a growing sport nationwide, with only 20 Division I teams in the country. St. Francis is now one of those programs and is the only Division I men’s volleyball team in New York state.
First-year head coach Niko Lambert is guiding the Terriers during this first season. He played collegiate volleyball at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, N.J., under coach Amable Martinez, who’s now the head women’s coach at St. Francis.
Last summer, Lambert was hired as an assistant coach for Martinez’s staff. Lambert said he considers Martinez his mentor and role model, and saw the hire to be a nice fit as he began his coaching career.
Once the men’s job opened, however, Lambert applied and was selected for the position. He has continued in his role as a women’s assistant coach, too.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” Lambert said. “It’s been the reason why. Everyone always says find your why and what gets you out of bed in the morning. Coming in to coach these young gentlemen every day is one of the most rewarding experiences that I could possibly explain.”
The Terriers’ roster is made up of 11 student-athletes eager to plant the seeds of a new sports program. Of the 11, nine are freshmen, and two are juniors looking for a new opportunity.
Junior outside hitter Michael Basile played for two years at Sage College of Albany, N.Y., before he heard about the new program at St. Francis. The thought of being one of the first-ever players to shape the team’s foundation appealed to him.
“There’s no better feeling to look back at a program and say that you helped pioneer the way and creating that legacy,” said Basile, one of the team’s captains. “Hopefully with the guys that we have as freshmen right now, I see great things coming from them.”
For any star high school volleyball player moving on to college, there’s a bit of a culture shock. Basile has emerged as one of the team’s leaders in helping his teammates develop the maturity to handle these new situations.
“These guys were all the best players on their club teams,” he said. “But when you get all the best players together, there are only a few who are then going to be the best of that group. A lot of it is finding your role and consistency aspect. It’s all about doing your best at a consistent level, because we’re going to need that this year.”
The Terriers started to establish their culture in the fall. That was the first step in setting up the team to achieve its main goal: get a little bit better each day.
“I think the process has been amazing,” said junior libero/setter Derrick Truong. “Whether it’s the freshmen or the few juniors on the team, we’ve been working as one and working toward one goal, which is setting the standard for our program and how high the ceiling can get for us.”
Truong, also a team captain, came to Brooklyn Heights after playing club volleyball at Temple University, Philadelphia. He is excited about the chance to play Division I college volleyball in New York City.
St. Francis will play 25 matches this season against Division I, Division II and Division III teams. Eventually, the Terriers will settle into the most competitive schedule possible in coming seasons.
When the book closes on this historic first season, Lambert hopes for two things. First, on the court, he never wants his team to lose a fifth set. Because the team would have exerted so much effort to get there in the first place, he hopes they can emerge victorious in all of those fifth sets.
Lambert also wants to ensure that the Terriers never beat themselves.
“If another team winds up putting one in the ‘W’ column, we can tip our hats to them and know that we left everything on the court and played to the best of our abilities,” he said.
Best of luck to the Terriers as they write the next chapter in the sports history of St. Francis College.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.