Elizabeth Wyman | Journal Gazette Pelegrin Vargas sets the ball during Friday night’s season-opening match against New Jersey Institute of Technology at the Gates Center.
Elizabeth Wyman | Journal Gazette Tony Price serves the ball during a match against NJIT Friday night at the Gates Center.
Elizabeth Wyman | Journal Gazette Tony Price flips the ball over the net during a match against NJIT Friday night at the Gates Center.
Elizabeth Wyman | Journal Gazette Kolbie Knorr receives a dig during a match against NJIT Friday night at the Gates Center.
Elizabeth Wyman | Journal Gazette Richie Diedrich serves the ball during a match against NJIT Friday night at the Gates Center.
Saturday, January 05, 2019 1:00 am
Purdue Fort Wayne 3 NJIT 0
Mastodons prove experience counts
ELIZABETH WYMAN | The Journal Gazette
For the past few seasons, the Purdue Fort Wayne men's volleyball team has heard how young it is, but now the 14th-ranked Mastodons have nine upperclassmen and the maturity to match.
So when crucial moments arose in the season opener Friday night at the Gates Center, the experience they've gained made the difference as the Mastodons defeated New Jersey Institute of Technology 3-0 (25-17, 26-24, 25-20).
“Feels like just yesterday coach was telling us we're a young team and making young team mistakes, but it (experience) showed perfectly tonight,” junior Richie Diedrich said. “We come together when the sets are tight.”
Fourth-year coach Ryan Perrotte said it felt good to start the season.
“The weight and buildup is so immense and the anticipatory feeling is off the charts,” Perrotte said. “Our guys all week long were that way, and it showed tonight in many facets of the way we played. But it was nice to finally get our feet wet and play an opponent other than ourselves.”
Pelegrin Vargas looked to be in midseason form. The junior outside hitter took over the second set, scoring five straight PFW points – not off an NJIT error – to set up a winning Tony Price ace.
Perrotte said Vargas' play is contagious, and he can settle his teammates down, especially like in the second set when there were 15 ties and momentum can switch with one point.
“Because he's so good offensively, he's so smart and can do anything in and out of system,” Perrotte said of Vargas. “That's what makes him so special; he can take over a contest.”
Vargas finished with 14 kills and a .458 attack percentage. He said once the Mastodons were able to take the Highlanders out of their system, the offense picked up.
“Since this offense was working everyone was getting good looks, so they couldn't just focus on me,” Vargas said. “Most of those hits I was one on one, so I was able to capitalize.”
PFW committed 19 service errors, but Perrotte said that aggressive serving is part of its game.
“I can live with 16 to 19 service errors because I thought we had some good misses form the service line,” he said.
Despite winning by eight in the first set, the Mastodons never ran away with this one, and Diedrich thinks that will benefit the team down the road.
“I think our mindset sometimes is we can come in and steamroll teams, and that's not the case,” Diedrich said. “We grind it out and those last two sets especially showed our grit and grind.”
PFW plays host to Princeton at 7 p.m. today.