New Haven, CT- On Sunday, February 17th, the Pioneers travelled to New Haven to compete in the first of three guaranteed tournaments this year. SHU was scheduled to play Holy Cross, UCONN, Coast Guard and Assumption College, but after Holy Cross forfeited to lack of appearance, they only had three games to play.
First, they took on in-state rival UCONN, who boasted a 3-1 record coming into the day with their only loss being to Marist who was the only undefeated team in the West division. Despite the talent on the UCONN side, the Pioneers did not back down one bit, sealing the first set in extra points 26-24. Eric Peper and Dan Hack led the way with Peper knocking down kill after kill and Hack putting up a mean block. In the second set, the Pioneers had a lead for most of the game, but fell apart at the end, losing 25-21 and giving life to UCONN heading into the winner-takes-all third set to 15. Despite a loss in set 2, the Pioneers were not phased as they rode the coattails of Eric Peper, Jair Davis and Fransicso Viera to a 15-12 third set win and a 2-1 match victory to move to 2-0. Despite the great hitting and blocking, the Pioneers would not have succeeded without the help of Logan Giebner, who passed with perfection in one of the most important games of the season.
With an undefeated record and confidence building, the Pioneers then took on the Coast Guard Academy (CGA), who always gives SHU a tough time. This was no different as the Pioneers had to go into extra points once again to beat CGA in the first set, 30-28. The second set was a little easier as the Pios secured a 25-18 victory against CGA, but not without the talents of, once again, Logan Giebner at Libero and Dan Ward at setter, who also managed to snag himself a couple of powerful kills.
Finally, the Pioneers took on Assumption College. This is where the Pioneers truly showed their depth. With a host of players playing different positions and some of the starters from previous games taking a rest, SHU cruised to a 25-13, 25-20 match victory. Fernando Pires took on roles of setter and middle hitter off the bench in this one and handled them well, while Brian Smith showed how talented of a passer he can be in the back row. The win against Assumption was a team effort with contributions from everybody including first-year starter Gunnar Pulimas who held down the other middle hitter position, keeping Assumption on their toes.
The Pios ended the day with a 4-0 record, losing only 1 set out of the 7 they ended up playing. This is only the second time in 6 years that SHU has achieved an undefeated record after 1 tournament and they are looking forward to continuing their success in two weeks as they travel back to New Haven on March 2nd to finish up their divisional schedule. They will take on the other undefeated team in Marist College as they look to secure the top spot in the division heading into the final tournament.