By: Chase Gardiner/GCU Staff
Following a fourth-place finish in the Las Vegas Season Opener, the Grand Canyon University Men’s Club Volleyball team bounced back in a big way, taking the championship match in their first home tournament of the spring season last weekend at the Lopes’ Performance Center on the GCU campus.
The Lopes hosted a number of familiar faces, including teams from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Utah Valley University. In their last meetings, the men’s team edged UNLV in three matches before ultimately falling to Utah Valley’s A team in the semifinals of the Las Vegas Season Opener.
In their first game of the GCU Tournament, GCU matched up against UNLV yet again as they looked for a repeat victory. Unfortunately for the Lopes, the Rebels turned the tables, defeating the Lopes in three sets.
“We are not the most dominant team, and it showed in our first match against UNLV,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Chuck Hunter. “They wanted the game more, and they beat us pretty good.”
Despite the tough start to the weekend, Hunter implored his team to continue fighting, reminding them, “It’s not how we start the day, but how we finish.”
Hunter’s advice clearly resonated with his athletes as the men’s team responded with an undefeated record for the remainder of the tournament. After two more pool play victories, the Lopes handily defeated Northern Arizona University in the semifinals, then overcame Utah Valley’s B team in the championship bout.
“We really struggled in our first match with serving and serve receive, and I thought we were in for a long day, but the guys focused and started to serve well and were consistent with their passing.”
Leading the charge for the Lopes was freshman Matthew Simpliciano, whose consistent serving came in clutch for his team. “He stepped in and consistently got us points each time around,” noted Hunter. “That is a hard job to do, coming in just to serve, but he was crucial for us at the end of the day.”
Additionally, freshmen Wesley Hunter and Dylan Moore, as well as sophomore Ryan Iskandar, all came up with key defensive plays to help seal the victory for the Lopes.
While winning the championship was certainly sweet, perhaps even sweeter for Hunter was seeing how his team responded to adversity after their initial loss to UNLV.
“The guys didn’t panic, they stuck together and we got the job done,” said Hunter. “I love that even when we are struggling on the court, the guys stay together. They are not picking fights with each other. Instead, they are pulling together and getting the job done.”
Interested in joining the men’s club volleyball team? Contact the coach to learn more!