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Finger Lakes Captures Inaugural NJCAA Men's Volleyball Championship

Finger Lakes Captures Inaugural NJCAA Men's Volleyball Championship

GLEN ELLYN, IL - Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC) made history on Saturday, April 22nd by winning the inaugural NJCAA Men's Volleyball National Invitational Championship at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The Lakers defeated Monroe College (New Rochelle, New York), 3-1, bringing the coveted hardware home to Canandaigua, New York.

The Lakers had a storybook season, performing when it mattered most, on the big stage. Despite going 0-2 during the regular season against the Monroe College Mustangs, the Lakers rose to the occasion in the national invitational. In the crossover round of the championships, the two teams battled it out, with the Lakers emerging victorious 3-1.

The win earned them a day two bye and an automatic bid to the semifinal round. The Lakers kept their momentum going, cruising past the host, the College of DuPage, with a 3-0 win in the semifinals. This victory secured a spot for them in the championship match, where they would face the Mustangs once again for the final time this season.

When asked about his team's preparations heading into their rematch with the Mustangs, head coach Andrew Solomon explained, "we watched a good deal of film and learned from our 2 losses to Monroe early in the season. In the first week of March, we made some adjustments and worked on them for 6 weeks leading up to Nationals. Our mindset was that we had nothing to lose. We were the underdog and that is just where we wanted to be. In pool play, I think we had something to prove because we were not thrilled with our initial seed of 3. The team definitely played with a chip on their shoulders and dominated in pool play".

"The last thing I said to the guys was to leave it all on the court and let's go home national champions", stated freshman Jonah Grbic (Victor, N.Y./Victor).

The championship matchup was a fitting end to a remarkable season, with the two teams giving it their all. The Lakers, however, would rise to the occasion and emerge victorious, claiming their first-ever NJCAA men's volleyball championship; etching Finger Lakes Community College's name in the history books.

"There were so many things I was feeling in that moment", said freshman Bryce Ceravolo (Canandaigua, N.Y./Canandaigua), "coach Solomon told us that win or lose he was still going to be proud of us, we started as a program with open gyms and no tryouts; those open gyms turned into a team that won a national championship".

The Lakers fired on all cylinders throughout the invitational, losing a mere 2 sets through 5 matches played; concluding their season on a 5-game win streak and finishing with a record of 13-4.

The team looked at their March 3rd sweep over the College of DuPage as the major turning point of the season, "we knew Monroe was most likely the only team left in our way after the win and from that point on we set our sights for Monroe and prepared for a potential meeting with them at Nationals. We regularly worked on strategies that we thought would give us the best chance to beat them", Solomon went on to add, "Monroe is an amazing team and we have incredible respect for them. Ultimately, we had to show up and play our best volleyball of the year, which is exactly what we did".

Freshman Jonah Grbic continued his outstanding performances in the championship match, just like he had done all season. He finished with 23 kills on 38 attempts and achieved an impressive hitting percentage of .500. Teammate Nick Ferris (Canandaigua, N.Y./ Canandaigua) also played a critical role in the Lakers attack, contributing 11 kills.

The Lakers attack came from all angles, with freshman Daniel Seymour (Bellmore, N.Y./ John F. Kennedy) adding six kills and Ian Meeks (Victor, N.Y./ Victor) finishing with 8 kills. Freshman setter Bryce Ceravolo was a reliable force, facilitating the Lakers attack with 56 assists in four sets and adding a service ace.

The Lakers defense also played a crucial role in the championship match, with the team accumulating 6 blocks in total. Ian Meeks and Daniel Seymour each contributed 8 blocks, while Nick Ferris and Bryce Ceravolo each added one. The Lakers put together a strong defensive game, with AJ DeBalso (Canandaigua, N.Y./ Canandaigua) finishing with 9 digs, and Ian Meeks and Samuel Guardado (San Salvador, El Salvador/ Josue Christian) with 9 and 7 digs respectively.

It was an overall teammate effort for the Lakers, according to head coach Andrew Solomon, "Jonah Grbic and Nick Ferris were nearly unstoppable. They both hit .500 in the finals, which is unheard of. Ian Meeks had his best match all year with 18 kills against Monroe in the crossover match, which turned out to be a vital piece of the championship run. Bryce Ceravolo was so solid and cool-headed all tournament. AJ DeBalso and Samuel Guardado provided solid defense all weekend. Daniel Seymour sparked the crowd with his exciting and enthusiastic play and the guys on the bench had unbelievable energy that everyone fed off of. We could not have done it without them".

Freshman Jonah Grbic was named the national invitational Most Valuable Player for his performance, while head coach Andrew Solomon earned NJCAA men's volleyball Coach of the Year honors.

"It felt great to get MVP but we couldn't have won anything without everyone on the team playing the roles that they did", stated Grbic, "we came so far as a team this season. Going into the championship match we were obviously the underdogs. I told the team the only thing standing in between us and a national championship was 3 sets".

With the win, head coach Andrew Solomon concludes his first season at the helm with at the top and sets the standard for what will be considered a highly-anticipated 2024 season for Finger Lakes Community College Men's Volleyball.

"I am so incredibly proud of what this entire program has accomplished in just one short year. Winning a National title in our inaugural season will springboard this program into continued success", stated Solomon.

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