The men’s volleyball team at California Baptist University started their season off strong with three consecutive wins at the Asics Invitational at the University of California, Santa Barbara, preparing them for the challenges ahead in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference.
Toppling the New Jersey Institute of Technology, 3-1, Quincy University, 3-2 and Lindenwood University, 3-0, the Lancers were off to the strongest start of the season since 2005. Obstacles were quickly met with conference opponents California State University, Northridge, and California State University, Long Beach.
Opening MPSF play Jan. 13 on the road against the No. 14-ranked Matadors of CSUN, the team was forced to fight hard from start to finish. The Matadors took the first two sets in forceful fashion, 25-19, 25-16, despite efforts made by the Lancers. The team edged CSUN in the third set, jumping to an early 3-1 lead and held off the competition until the set was tied 13-13.
Cody Jackson, junior mechanical engineering major and opposite hitter, and Caleb Miller, junior intercultural studies major and middle blocker, added some cushion to the score before the set was taken in favor of the Matadors 25-23.
In a second conference matchup against No. 3-ranked LBSU, the Lancers were overcome in four sets, 25-16, 22-25, 25-12 and 25-18. Stat leaders were Enrique de Diego Garcia, sophomore business administration major and middle blocker, and Miller with six and four kills, respectively. Rohit Paul, sophomore exercise science major and outside hitter, finished the night with 10 digs.
Paul, a returner to the team, said he has a lot to look forward to through the season.
“Our guys from last year have a ton of experience and we’re finally beginning to gel together which is nice to see,” Paul said. “I’m looking forward to a more competitive season. This team is young, but very capable.”
Although the team has already faced tough oppenents, Jackson said he is optimistic about the rest of the season.
“We fight to improve little by little each day,” Jackson said. “One of our goals this season is to beat a top 5-ranked team and we’re growing together as a family and are ready to take on each challenge ahead of us as one unit.”
In a matchup against No. 2-ranked University of California, Los Angeles, the Lancers were overcome 3-0, but not without a fight. The team hung with the conference leader 27-25, 25-21, 25-12.
Zachary Melcher, sophomore marketing major and setter, led the team in assists in his first start of the year.
The team will play a home game Jan. 29 against Stanford University.