Gaels show improvement in Velez-Perez’s second year


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This is the shortest season Iona volleyball has played.

Giovanni Paolo Tagliafierro, Assistant Sports Editor

The Iona College volleyball team’s season came to a close on Thursday with a loss to Niagara in the first round of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Association tournament. Thursday’s game capped off a 3-7 spring campaign for the Gaels.  

The 2020-2021 season followed up a 2019 season that saw Iona volleyball finish with a 5-23 overall record, and a 5-13 conference record. The main evidence of improvement is the fact that the team played in less than half of the games they played in the previous season, and still amassed three wins out of the 10-game schedule.  

In 2018, the Gaels won the MAAC Championship under head coach Patric Santiago. Esai Velez-Perez took over after the departure of Santiago, in a year where the team had a lot of new players and graduating seniors. 

Velez-Perez, who added a second year of head coach experience under his belt, expanded on the team’s perspective going into this season in an interview via phone call.  

“I wasn’t thinking that we were going to have a season,” Velez-Perez said. “We weren’t expecting anything, we were just enjoying day-by-day.” 

Velez-Perez touched on the team sticking with the various COVID-19 protocols during practice and travel, as well as dealing with the stressful uncertainties of the shortened season. He praised his players on this, saying how it displayed both patience and a passion for the game.  

Consistency was an area of growth and improvement for the Gaels this season according to Velez-Perez. He also hinted at his anticipation for the fall season as a chance to see the young team develop and continue to improve. 

“These young players are bringing a lot of quality on the court,” Velez-Perez said. “That’s exciting. The consistency we didn’t have last year, we have it this year.” 

The emphasis on the young players did not overshadow the play of seniors Jamie Smith and Taylor Cole, two fundamental pieces of the team who concluded their final season in maroon and gold on Thursday. 

The Iona women’s volleyball team looks forward to their next upcoming season in the fall, a season in which they will look to improve even more