Union, NJ| After posting a 19-11 record and earning a Skyline Conference semifinal berth in the program's first competitive season, St. Joseph's College (L.I.) men's volleyball team head coach Bill Kropp leads a hungry group into the 2018 season.
With a 6-3 Skyline record during the 2017 regular season, the Golden Eagles earned the fourth seed in the conference tournament and defeated Sage in the first round of the competition. They'd go on to meet the eventual champion, Kean University, in the semis but were eliminated in a three-game sweep.
The Returners: Kropp returns 10 of 11 players from last season including sophomore Kyle Biggers, who led the nation in hitting percentage (.469). The 6-foot-2 middle blocker finished second on the team in total kills (206) and was fourth in kills/set (2.19).
Senior setter Tyler Jones reprises his role for the 2018 season a year after dishing out a conference-best 902 assists. Flanking Jones will be sophomore outside hitters Paul Curaro and Will Flohr, who put down 299 and 188 kills, respectively, last season.
Key to the Golden Eagles' defense will be senior Michael Barfield and junior Danny McNamara. Barfield finished third in the Skyline Conference in digs/set (2.47) and McNamara pitched in with 185 total digs.
The Newcomers: Three freshmen join the SJC ranks along with senior transfer Alec Smalley. Smalley spent the past two seasons at St. Joseph's College (Brkln) where he totaled 207 kills at a 1.31 kills/set rate.
Expectations: With Kean, Ramapo and New Jersey City departing the conference after last season, SJC is one of just six schools competing for a Skyline title in 2018. A year ago, the Golden Eagles posted a 4-1 record against the conference's remaining institutions with the only defeat coming against the College of Mount St. Vincent—last season's runner-up—on April 2. With virtually no turnover, Kropp and the team feel a conference title is not only the goal, but an attainable one.
Outside of conference play, SJC is scheduled to play seven schools included in the AVCA coaches' preseason top-15. Highlights include a pair of contests with defending national champion and preseason #1 Springfield and matches with #2 Stevens, #3 New Paltz and #4 Vassar.
When they begin: St. Joseph's will open the season at Kean on Friday, January 19 with a non-conference match vs. #14 Mount St. Josephs at 4:00 pm. On Saturday, January 20 the Golden Eagles face #11 Kean and Arcadia University at 9:30 am and 11:30 am, respectively. SJC returns to the Danzi Center for its home-opener on Thursday, January 25 vs. Brooklyn College at 7:00 pm.