(Nashua, N.H.) After reaching the semi-finals of the 2017 GNAC playoffs the 2018 Raiders will look to start a new era in Rivier history. The young and hungry Raiders will work hard at proving themselves in the GNAC and in the country as the schedule boasts some of the top teams in the nation to see if they are up to the challenge. Rivier returns 5 out 7 starters from last year's squad along with 7 more lettermen and 5 new faces so as the season goes on expect to see new names surface contributing for the Blue and White. A new tradition of Raider volleyball is underway and it should be an exciting ride for the entire season.
GNAC COACHES PRE-SEASON POLL
The annual GNAC Coaches Pre-Season was announced and for the second consecutive season, the Raiders were chosen as the 2nd best team in the conference behind defending two-time champion Wentworth Institute of Technology. Rivier garnered a single first place vote while seven other coaches tabbed Wentworth as the best team. Here is how the voting broke down:
1. Wentworth (7) – 63
2. Rivier (1) – 55
3. Johnson & Wales – 46
4. Lasell – 40
5. Regis – 32
6. Emmanuel – 22
7. Emerson – 20
8. Mount Ida – 10
Senior Garrett Bucklin (5'9", L, Jamestown, R.I.), last year's GNAC Defensive Player of the Year at the libero position, will play his 3rd position in 4 years for the Raiders as he takes over the Raiders offense as the main setter this season. Expect to see the smooth versatile player at the top of the GNAC and the nation standings once again this season. Classmates Matt Heckler (6'4", MH, Simi Valley, Calif.) and Grant Andler (6'6", OH, Chicago, Ill.) will once again be in the mix for Rivier. Both All GNAC Team members hope to elevate their game to the next level for their final seasons and the Raiders will need them to do just that in order to achieve their goals.
Junior middles Dashaun Graham (6'2", MH, Highlands Fall, N.Y.), and Khaynen Yocca (6'6", MH, Pittsburgh, Pa.) will continue to get stronger for the Raiders in the middle. Graham, one of the most athletic Raiders on the team, looks to build off another great offseason to be among the best of the GNAC. Yocca, who suffered a season ending injury late in 2017, is determined to make up for lost time to help drive Rivier to hopefully be among the best in the nation. Dahnny Rogers (6'1", L/DS, Penfield, N.Y.), another player with a tremendous off-season, will step into the libero position this year and should bring a good amount of ball control on receive and big plays on defense to help Rivier take the next step towards their goals. Look for the quiet leader to be aggressive and confident with his play on the court. Nathan Kunkel (6'3", OH, Pittsburgh, Pa.) will look to build of a great summer of training and fitness and help Rivier make a difference at the pins.
The sophomore class may be the most influential for the success of the Raiders for this season and the seasons to come. All 5 players will make noticeable steps from the 2017 campaign. Cam Roth (6'3", OH, Coventry, R.I.), possesses the skills to be the Raiders best 6 rotation player. He will be relied upon to do a little bit of everything on both offense and defense and will be a solid O2 for RIV. Francis Kokoros (6'7", OPP, Braintree, Mass.), another player with a game changing off-season, will bring his size and elevated play to the opposite position. Expect to see Kokoros as a difference maker throughout the season for Rivier. David Smith (6'2", OH, Canton, Ohio), yet another player who dedicated himself to the offseason, could be the most explosive weapon the Raiders have on offense this season. You should see him near the top of the leader board on the offensive side of the stat categories with his strong pension to score. Danny Sciolaro (6'4", S, Wayne, N.J.) worked hard on his skills over the summer and should add to the direction of the Raiders' offense while middle hitter John Equitani (6'4", MH, Coventry, R.I.) has the ability to take over games at the net both defensively and offensively and will build on his consistency to do just that by season end.
Setters Andrew Panameno (6'2", S, Los Angeles, Calif.) and Eric Roderick (6'0", S. Salem, N.H.) were team MVP's for their respective high schools in 2017 and will look to learn from senior setter Garrett Bucklin to take their game to the next level. Fellow newcomers Matt Hagan (6'7", MH, Burnt Hills, N.Y.) and Ernesto Montes (6'5", MH/OH, Huntington Park, Calif.) will help bolster the Raiders front row with their size and presence on the block. Look for all four first year players to see huge strides in their games as the season goes on.