We need to focus on consistency, leadership to compete: Velez-Perez

Matthew Chaves, Sports Editor

The Iona College volleyball team has had a subpar performance this season compared to last. A change in the coaching staff as well as the departure of a top-performing senior class has affected the Gaels this season and their 1-11 record shows it. The goal is to become more consistent not only in their play but in their leadership too, according to Head Coach Esai Velez-Perez.

“The seniors from last year were a good group of seniors,” Velez-Perez said. “[It’s all about] adjusting and getting those new leaders.”

Despite losing four pivotal players last season, the Gaels continue to express good leadership, Velez-Perez says. The problem with the team right now is consistency.

“Do we have those [types of players], yes of course,” Velez-Perez said. “We have [senior] Jessica Paolucci, we have [senior] Tess Connolly, even [junior] Jamie Smith. We need them to be consistent.”

Iona won its first match against Saint Peter’s on Sept. 22. The win came after 11 matches lost with only four sets won. The major positive the team showed against Saint Peter’s was their consistency on the court.

“They started the game the same way they finished,” Velez-Perez said. “They clicked on the consistency we’re looking for and right now we need that.”

Changes to how the team plays as well as the team culture has affected the Gaels a lot since last season, according to Velez-Perez. The former volleyball coaching staff were in charge for three years before they left, and having to change how they practice and play is showing in their performances.

“Not every coach and every system is the same,” Velez-Perez said.

Iona is feeling the impact of the hole the departing seniors left most of all, Velez-Perez claims.

The drive to compete hasn’t left the Gaels despite the amount of changes to the team and the rough start to the season. This season the Gaels aim to compete and get into the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference playoffs while also rebuilding the team to have that consistency, Velez-Perez says.

The only way to move from here is forward, and Velez-Perez believes the team will only get better as the season moves on into conference play.

“At the end of the day, one win or one loss will put you out or put you in the next step,” Velez-Perez said. “I’m not looking to get first place, but I’m looking to get into the top six to see what happens there.”

Velez-Perez’s goal seems like an unlikely venture given their past games so far, but the Gaels’ head coach believes through practice and consistent good play, Iona can make it happen and have a playoff run this season. Communication throughout the team on and off the court will also get them to their goal, he claims.

“Communication will be the thing that will help us to be the best team in the conference,” Velez-Perez said.