Team Florida Wave First Official Men's PVL Champs

July 02, 2013, 11:41 p.m. (ET)

By Matt Bieker for USA Volleyball

A Victory for the Sport: Team Florida Wave First Official Men's PVL Champs

RENO, Nev. (July 2, 2013) - In the championship match between two of the top-seeded Men’s Premier Volleyball League (PVL) teams, Team Florida Wave and Team Great Lakes Lights Out, the men of both teams fought ferociously for four sets on the court inside the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nev. — but the reigning Men’s Open Division champions from the USA Volleyball Open National Championships were able to repeat that success in the PVL, and clinched the 19-25, 25-23, 25-22, 27-25 victory for the Florida region.

Despite an explosive performance in the first set, culminating in a win for Lights Out, Florida Wave fought back and dominated the next three sets—securing the win. Notable performances from players like Ryan Stafford, Lights Out’s 6-6 offensive powerhouse, and Chad Mercado, who delivered ruthless defense for Florida Wave, kept the two teams within a five-point range of the other for almost the entire match.

Energy remained high on both sides of the net, with players congratulating or consoling each other after every point. The Lights Out, who were the 2012 Men’s Open champions, gained the first point of the match and drew out a several-point lead in the opening minutes—a gap that the Wave was unable to close before the final point.

The usually poised Florida Wave seemed slightly out of sync in the first set, but after a narrow victory in the second, the momentum only seemed to increase for the Florida squad.

“This is the best I’ve seen them play all week,” said Steve Bishop, PVL president and general manager for the Florida Wave, during the heated third set—where Lights Out fought back to tie the score at 19-19 before succumbing to Florida Wave for a second time.

The fourth and final set saw both teams playing frantically to keep their chances alive, with the score eventually arriving at a riveting 24-all tie before the Wave finally ended the tournament with two points in quick succession at 27-25.

After the match, the teams attended an award ceremony, wherein the final placement saw Team Western Empire take third, and $1,000 in prize money; Team Great Lakes Lights Out at second with $3,000; and Team Florida Wave claiming first place and a corresponding $6,000.

The players to receive special recognition for their performance were: Lance Rogers for Team Western Empire, Jay Petty of the Lights Out, Kyle Masterson of the Lights Out, Chad Mercado of the Florida Wave, Srdjan Nadazin of Florida Wave, Kyle Friend of Florida Wave, and Mike Iandolo of the Wave receiving MVP.

As both teams shook hands at the end of the match and joined each other on the awards podium, any resent or disappointment one might expect was completely absent. The most notable attitude on the podium was the respect and mutual appreciation of each team by the others, showing the spirit of these men—and this league—is one of competition, but also of community and simple pleasure in their sport.

A Tight-Knit Team: Team New England

RENO, Nev. (July 2, 2013) – Team New England draws its talent from one of the smaller U.S. regions, but one that is exceedingly supportive of men’s volleyball. Coach Craig Kolek speaks about what this sense of community has brought to the team, and how Team New England came to be.

“Right away, the New England committee called me and said ‘we want you coaching it’ … I didn’t decide until basically December to coach the team and then we had tryouts,” said Kolek.

Kolek is the current coach of Rivier College in New Hampshire, and has been a facet of the New England volleyball community for years. When the decision was made to form Team New England, he held a well-attended tryout with many of New England region’s top talent.

Coach Kolek was excited by the idea of competitive PVL play as something for his college players to aspire to, and as an outlet for the other adult players in the region.

“Being around volleyball for so long, I love the fact that it’s still growing,” he said. “I’m passionate about volleyball and I love the fact that there’s something new out there that’s going to make volleyball expand and grow bigger.”

Judy Katalina, the team coordinator and adult commissioner for the New England Region, firmly believes that the team’s previous familiarity in local tournaments and club-play contributes to New England’s chemistry on the court.

“These guys all knew each other walking in because we’re such a tight-knit adult community,” Katalina said. “We run adult tournaments in the region upwards of seven or eight every Saturday … so these guys see each other all year long.”

As a representative of the region, Katalina also made a point to mention the level of support that Team New England receives from its region. The region covered most of the team’s travel, entrance and lodging fees.

Coack Kolek believes that his team’s play philosophy boils down to quick thinking and even quicker reaction, as opposed to sheer force.

“If you look at us compared to other teams, we’re pretty small,” Kolek said. “So we try to be a little bit quicker in offense, have some ball control and some scrappy defense, and kind of just frustrate them.”

Kolek and his team recognize many other players on the other PVL teams as well, including many of the players from their neighboring regions. This is an excellent example that the spirit of community in men’s volleyball extends all over the country, and while Team New England is here to win, they agree that one of the PVL’s main goals is fostering this community of talented players.

Staying Focused: Matt Ferreira

Name: Matt Ferreira
Age: 25
Team: New England
Position: Middle Blocker

A native of Newport, R.I., Matt Ferreira knows the importance of keeping a cool head during a match, and that the emotional aspect of the game can be just as important as the physical one.

Ferreira is a self-described “late-comer” to the game of volleyball, having only started playing his junior year of high school after a lifetime of playing basketball. While playing on a club team, Ferreira was recruited by none other than coach Kolek to play at Rivier College.

“He saw the potential in me, and from there I grew—he taught me pretty much everything I know now about the sport,” said Ferreira. “I’m a big time visual learner … and after practice, after every game I started—slowly but surely—getting better.”

Ferreira recounts how Kolek taught him to break some of the poor habits he had picked up earlier in his career, and that by taking a few steps backward, he was able to make leaps forward in his training.

After college, Ferreira competed in a few local New England tournaments, and honed his skills playing beach doubles on the coast of Rhode Island. He then attended the three-day Team New England tryouts with around 50 other players—most of whom he recognized.

“Even guys that were cut still were supportive of the team—still came out to help scrimmage us,” he said. “It is very close-knit in New England, we kind of stick together.”

While everyone on Team England knows each other on and off the court, Ferreira brings a specific kind of energy to a match that sets him apart.

“I’m a very strong mental player, where I am going to stay up no matter what, and I can see it in other players’ eyes—when their down—and also keep them up,” said Ferreira. “I’m very emotional on the court, I’m very vocal and so I try to keep everybody up … I think the guys look to me to stay level headed.”

Ferreira seems to be in a world of his own as he warms up for his match against fellow east coast rivals, Team Western Empire, and straddles the line between focused determination and nervous energy. Players like Ferreira prove that being an athlete is more than just brute strength—it’s a mindset.