By Ellen Weaver
Tuesday, March 14th, after losing the first two sets in a heated rivalry match-up against Greenville College on Fontbonne’s home court, the Fontbonne University Men’s Volleyball team came back to defeat the Greenville Panthers 3-2. The scores of each set were 23-25, 23-25, 26-24, 25-17, and 15-13.
Photos courtesy of Ellen Weaver
The Griffins lost the first two sets 23-25. Both of these sets were extraordinarily close throughout. Neither team had a sizable lead. When a referee ejected junior middle hitter Tony Pitaro from the game, Fontbonne finally found their spark.
“When the teams were walking past each other, Greenville was talking trash on how they beat us 2-0. It was great to come back. While the Tony thing shouldn’t have gone down like that, it really fired the whole team up,” said sophomore right side hitter TJ Vorva.
Vorva wasn’t the only one with those feelings. Sophomore outside hitter Brendon Schwartze had a similar thought.
“Tony got kicked out and brought the energy.”
According to Pitaro, he was thrown out after defending teammate O’Connell from an opposing coach who saying unkind things about the freshman. Pitaro was thrown out for using inappropriate language with said coach and the referee.
“I saw their assistant coach trash talking and getting in Kyler’s face and I took offense to that. I started yelling at the ref, and then had a few choice words for their coach, as well. Looking back, it probably wasn’t my best idea. But in the end, the boys brought home a great team win, and I don’t want to take anything away from that,” stated Pitaro.
Following the incident, Pitaro tried to join the student section. Fontbonne’s Director of Athletics Maria Buckel disallowed that and escorted Pitaro to the locker room.
“Tony and I have met and he understands that his behavior was completely inappropriate and will not be tolerated. Our student-athletes represent more themselves and Tony let his team down as well as our Fontbonne community. We all make mistakes but it how we respond after we have failed to do the right thing that defines one’s character. I am hopeful that positive change is the outcome of this troubling situation,” stated Buckel.
Greenville’s Associate Athletic Director and Head Women’s Volleyball Coach responded with the following statement:
“This is only the 2nd year for our men’s volleyball program and we have enjoyed a healthy rivalry with Fontbonne. The match was definitely heated, but the athletes and coaches at Fontbonne were all very gracious after the match and we appreciated that. Director of Athletics, Maria Buckel, handled the situation very well, as did the officials.”
The Griffins needed to win the last three sets to win the game, and with a team effort, they succeeded.
The third set was another close match. The set was tied 24-24. A two-point lead is necessary in order to win. After a misservice from Greenville, the Griffins were up 25-24. The winning point came from freshman setter Kyler O’Connell, who won a joust to secure the win for Fontbonne.
The momentum carried over to the fourth and fifth sets as the Griffins came away with the overall win 3-2.
“It was an all-around team win,” said O’Connell. “Everyone was pushing for the same thing. It was a great game. We broke the slump.”
The Griffins were stuck in a 4-game losing streak prior to the Greenville win.
“We came out sluggish in the first 2 sets, and then a couple things went our way. Our outisides stepped up and brought everything together,” said coach Jimmy Stikka.
The Griffins also won bragging rights Tuesday night. Fontbonne now holds the upper hand in the Greenville rivalry series 3-2. Greenville and Fontbonne are the only two teams—of schools who are usually seen in the SLIAC—that are also in the MCVL.
Since the Greenville win, the Griffins are on a 4-game winning streak. Their record is currently 13-11.
Ellen Weaver is the social media editor and a contributor to GriffinRoar.