Rivier men’s volleyball rides win streak
NASHUA – Craig Kolek didn’t even realize it until he logged onto the Rivier University athletics website one day and saw the story.
The Raiders men’s volleyball team he coaches is on a 24-match winning streak in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference.
“It’s a pretty solid streak,” Kolek said. “I was actually surprised. I hadn’t heard the players say a word about it.”
That’s because they weren’t really aware of it, either. You see, the GNAC is in its fifth year of men’s volleyball competition and the Raiders were a regional power long before that as Kolek enjoys his 17th season at the helm. But now they need to win the GNAC postseason tournament to qualify for the NCAAs, so any dominance Rivier can establish in its conference is a big help.
“The important thing is we always want to beat everyone in our conference,” said Kolek, whose team is 6-0 in the GNAC and 16-10 overall. “The only thing we talk about is what we have to do to win the next game. But we want to win the conference championship and go from there.”
The streak began two seasons ago and the Raiders will seek No. 25 on Thursday when they face Wentworth Institute.
The Raiders play a tough out-of-conference schedule, and since the sport came under the NCAA umbrella a couple of years ago, the competition has been getting tougher.
Going into the season Kolek thought this would be one of his better teams. Still, with just one senior, Steve Visentin, there have been some growing pains.
The Raiders are still led by last year’s GNAC Rookie and Player of the Year, sophomore Chris Markuson, out of Cupertino, Calif. The 6-foot-5-inch outside hitter leads the team in kills. Also coming into his own is Timberlane Regional alum Terry Matatall, a 6-7 junior middle hitter out of Danville who is second on the team in kills and blocks and one of the Raiders’ best servers.
“This is his first year starting, and he’s having a really good year,” Kolek said.
Can the streak continue right through the post season? Kolek hopes so, but if there’s a team out there that could pose a problem it’s Emmanuel College in Boston, whom the Raiders beat 3-1 earlier this year and see again at the end of the month.
“Emmanuel is right on the doorstep,” Kolek said. “They’re getting there. It’s going to take some more recruiting for them.”
But, as Kolek said, the recruiting wars are heating up, especially with the NCAA tourney established. Other schools he expects to be conference contenders are Emerson, Mount Ida and Anna Maria, as they’ve moved to hire full-time coaches.
“Now that it’s an NCAA Division III sport, you’re going to see a huge explosion of talent getting better and better,” Kolek said. “It’s already shown in the recruiting.”
But for now, the road to the NCAA tourney goes through Rivier University, which has put up a pretty solid roadblock.