AURORA, N.Y. – The Wells College men's volleyball team enters their third season of play during the 2014 season. Head Coach Richard Gary, also in his third season in Aurora, will look to continue the program's upward trend in the win column this season. In 2013, the Express posted eight wins after only a single victory in the inaugural 2012 season. So far, in 2014, Wells has racked up a 2-2 record against quality competition at the SUNYIT Wildcat Invitational beginning Friday, Jan. 24.
"We're definitely improving and we're coming off of the best pre-season training block I've had as a coach," remarked Gary when pressed for his thoughts on the upcoming season. "Not only have the new recruits brought some competitiveness to the gym, but our returners took their off-season seriously and have come back focused and hungry.
"Our goal for this year was to be more physical and we've done that. Now we've got to get these guys some repetitions and learn how to work together as a team. Keeping our focus and getting the most out of every match experience is crucial," said Gary.
Senior C.J. Bayly (Waymart, Pa.) enters his final semester at Wells as the lone graduate this Spring. The all-time program leader in sets played entering the 2014 season (153), Bayly has made a transition from serving as a setter to libero for the Express. Defensively, his 239 digs across 153 sets stand as the program's top mark. He has also chipped in with 65 total blocks up front, ranking second on the squad in that category.
Bayly, a two-sport athlete for the Express, was also one of the North Eastern Athletic Conference's best goalkeepers in 2013. Earning Second Team All-Conference honors, Gary is especially excited to have his intangibles on the court for the men's volleyball team in 2014.
"We couldn't be more excited about what C.J.'s offering this year," said Gary. "As one of the best soccer goalkeepers in the league, he has taken to the libero role and offers up the energy, positivity and leadership that we need on the back line."
Three juniors dot the roster for the Express, including middle hitter Paul Hernon (New Hartford, N.Y.), outside hitter Andy Jacobs (Millburn, N.Y.) and defensive specialist Chris Tinozzi (Syracuse, N.Y.). Hernon, who stands at 6-5, has tallied 101 total blocks for Wells across his prior two seasons and holds the all-time program record in that category. Jacobs ranks third with 173 kills across two seasons while leading all players with 663 total attacks. Tinozzi holds sixth place all-time in service aces (31) and sets played (86).
Sophomores Derek Nipps (Turnersville, N.Y.), John Farruggia (Leonardsville, N.Y.) and J.J. Podczasy (Macungie, Pa.) return for their second seasons with the Express. In only one season, Nipps captured the program's top mark for assists per set by assisting an average of 4.05 kills for the Express as a freshman. Farruggia posted 141 kills for Wells as a freshman, the third-most by any first year player in team history. Podczasy averaged 2.18 kills per set as a freshman while also striking for a single-season record total of 185. Both Nipps and Podczasy earned NEAC Second Team All-Conference honors as freshman in 2013.
Four freshmen join the team, including Torik Gordon (Westmoreland, Jamaica), Liam Kaylor (Falls Church, Va.), Alex Battey (Palmdale, Calif.) and Mathew Armlin (Fort Plain, N.Y.). Gordon, a two-sport athlete at Harry S. Truman High School, was the Most Valuable Player at the Exceptional Senior Tournament and also drew regional All-Star honors.
"Torik is the jumping equivalent of the Energizer Bunny," said Gary. "He's raw, and is working to develop his shot selection, but his confidence under pressure and his focus in big points earns him big credibility with his teammates and the staff."
Kaylor, a two-sport athlete in high school, was selected as a Fairfax County (Va.) All-Star for his prowess on the court and he also participated at the 2013 Boys Junior National Volleyball Championships in Reno, N.V.
"Liam is one of those guys who wants to contribute in any way possible, and he's become a solid setter option for us while continuing to rip from the right side," said Gary in reference to Kaylor.
Battey and Armlin, both middle hitters, come to the Express following two-sport careers at their respective high schools. Battey, the Valedictorian of his class, earned All-Tournament honors during his volleyball career while Armlin was tabbed with All-Sport Athlete honors at Little Falls High School.
"Mat is the most physical guy in our gym," said Gary. "He's exactly the kind of amped and aggressive guy that every team needs. He will not accept failure at any task, no matter how challenging, and that sets a tone for the rest of the squad that makes anything possible. Alex is a thinking player, and he's not looking to just complete tasks. He wants to know 'why', and when he understands something, he's able to go out and execute at a higher level than we've seen in the program."
The Express, who are also assisted by coaches Brooke England and Mark Lucas, will host their first North Eastern Athletic Conference match of the season on Tuesday, Feb. 11 against Cazenovia College at 7:00 p.m. within the Frances Tarlton Farenthold Athletic Wing.