Preview posted by: Anthony Perry, Rivier University Sports Information Director
Preview written by: Craig Kolek, Head Men's Volleyball Coach/Associate A.D.
(Nashua, N.H.) The defending Great Northeast Athletic Conference champions will look to repeat their history making 2018 season and bring home another GNAC championship in 2019. A playoff tested group will need to rely on that experience as they will be challenged by some tough and hungry GNAC teams along with some of the best teams in the nation. Rivier returns 5 out of 7 starters from last year's squad along with 6 more letterman and 6 new faces so expect to see contributions from many for the Blue and White as they strive to continue the tradition of excellence for which the Raiders are known.
Seniors Dashaun Graham (6'2", MH, Highlands Fall, N.Y.), and Khaynen Yocca (6'6", MH, Pittsburgh, Pa.) will be front and center for the Raiders in the middle hitter positions as both are coming off career seasons in 2018. Graham, an All GNAC 1st Team selection, was one of the best in the GNAC and the nation for hitting percentage and blocks while Yocca, an All GNAC 3rd Team selection, was among the national leaders for hitting percentage as well in 2018. Expect to see these two be among the best once again this season. Graduate student Kyle Heidler (5'8, L, Hampstead, N.H.) will take advantage of another season of eligibility while working towards his graduate degree and be a main staple in the Raiders serve receive and defensive game.
The junior class once again will be the foundation for the Raiders this season. David Smith (6'3", OH, Canton, Ohio), opened the eyes of the GNAC last season with his explosive offensive ability and was named to the 2nd Team All GNAC for it. Expect to see the same this season from the talented outside hitter. Smith's counterpart on the outside Cam Roth (6'3", OH, Coventry, R.I.), a 3rd Team All GNAC selection in 2018, was impressive last season as the Raiders best ball control player and will elevate that even more this season after a great off season of beach volleyball training. The 3rd pin hitter for the Raiders will be Francis Kokoros (6'7", OPP, Braintree, MA), who had a tremendous off season of training and conditioning. Expect to see Kokoros bring size and power to Rivier's pin game while working hard at making a name for himself in the GNAC. Pedro Campos (6'1", S, Downey, Calif.) will take control of the Raider offense. The junior transfer was an All-Western State Conference 1st Team member at El Camino Community College and will bring a wealth of skill and experience to the all-important setter position and direct what could be a dynamic offense for the Blue and White. Middle hitter John Equitani (6'4", MH, Coventry, R.I.) rounds off the talented junior class and will be the first one off the bench to relieve Graham and Yocca. Expect to see the middle hitter making a difference at the net both defensively and offensively.
Four sophomores will continue their journey of developing their game and skills while adding depth off the bench. Andrew Panameno (6'2", S, Los Angeles, Calif.) and Eric Roderick (6'0", S, Salem, N.H.) will look to help the Raiders offensively at the setters position while Matt Hagan (6'7", MH, Burnt Hills, N.Y.) and Ernesto Montes Gaxiola (6'4", MH/OH, Huntington Park, Calif.) will continue to work hard at getting stronger in the middle hitter position.
A talented first year class will add impressive and exciting depth to the Raiders squad and will help the returners reach new heights for the program. Merrimack Valley Conference MVP Sokunbuth Ly (6'1", OPP/S/MH, Lowell, Mass.), who could be the most athletic player on this year's team, will being his athleticism and work ethic to several positions on the court for RIV. New York State runner up Jack Normandin (5'11", OH, Clifton Park, N.Y.), who has one of the highest verticals on the team and was a New York State Championship finalist, will provide much needed depth at the pin with his explosive offense while also possessing the ability to be a solid passer and floor defender as well. Jack Hromada ( 5'8", L, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, N.Y.) will bring needed ball control in the back court for the Raiders. Expect to see the Burnt Hills native get stronger as the year goes on providing solid passing and defense along the way. Kristjan Cortez (6'3", OH, Newark, Calif.) has the ability to be a solid O2 with good ball control and defense combined with the ability to move the ball around offensively. Mike DeAngelis (6'6", MH, Coventry, R.I.) rounds out the freshmen class with some size in the middle for Rivier. DeAngelis will gain valuable experience from Graham and Yocca.