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Bearcats set for volleyball success: Men’s Volleyball hosts conference preview tournament

By Jacob Rzempoluch, Sports Editor

Originally Published February 6, 2024

The 2019 announcement of men’s volleyball as the 24th varsity sport at Saint Vincent College (SVC) came with a question: what conference would the team compete in? At the time the President’s Athletic Conference (PAC), which SVC is a member of, did not sponsor the sport. In 2020, the men’s volleyball team would join the women’s bowling team in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC). SVC joined the Geneva Golden Tornadoes and the Thiel Tomcats, two other PAC member schools, as affiliate men’s volleyball teams.

Sophomore Shawn McSwiggen strikes the ball in a home match against Lees-McRae. (SOURCE: WATKINS)

In 2022 the PAC announced that the conference would sponsor men’s volleyball beginning in the 2024-25 season due to increasing interest in the sport among member schools. A PAC Preview tournament was organized to allow several programs to face each other before the first season of PAC play. Hosted by SVC from Jan. 19-20, the tournament pitted SVC, Geneva, and Thiel against AMCC opponent Hiram and first-year programs from Bethany and Chatham.

The Bearcats entered the showcase with a strong squad and confidence from a 2-3 victory against the Lees-McRae Bobcat. Shawn McSwiggen, sophomore middle level education major, led the Bearcats with his 18-kill, 15-dig performance that would earn him Bearcat of the Week honors.

“It is an amazing honor to be named Bearcat of the Week!” said McSwiggen. It is a great accomplishment that I have strived to achieve throughout the season last year and hope to be named more in the future. I think without the ‘well-oiled machine’ of the team I am surrounded by I would not be able to fuel my success on the court.”

Matthew Minkin, senior political science major, also recorded a double-double in the Bearcats’ first victory. Last season, Minkin was named to the All-AMCC First Team. He was additionally highlighted as AMCC Co-Preseason Player of the Year for the 2023-24 season. SVC lost only two players who played more than 15 games last season, and already recruited three freshmen to replace the graduating talent.

The first day of the PAC Preview Tournament consisted of two big Bearcat wins. SVC swept Chatham 3-0 before defeating Geneva 3-1 a few hours later. McSwiggen recorded another double-double in the second match while the Bearcats recorded more kills, digs, blocks, and assists than their opponents in each game. Day two was not as successful for the Bearcats, with a 3-1 loss to Hiram and a hard-fought 3-2 loss against Thiel leaving SVC with a 2-2 record for the weekend. In the close Thiel match, Zaych Wyant, sophomore history major, recorded a team season-high 42 assists in a game that just barely slipped out of the Bearcats’ grasp.

Senior Matthew Minkin and AMCC Co-Preseason Player of the Year sees the recognition as both an honor and a challenge. (SOURCE: WATKINS)

“Both games were a battle but at the end of the day, we were beat up tired physically and mentally,” said McSwiggen. We proved that we could hang with the top teams in the conference, and we have plenty of time to prepare for when we match up with them in AMCC conference play. I know that we have all the pieces to prove that we can be the top team in the conference. Regardless it was a great weekend to start this long season and [we] cannot wait to compete more.”

The Bearcats hope to improve on their performance from last season, when they finished with a 11-10 overall record and a third-best 8-5 AMCC record.

“Last season we were taken down by Penn State Behrend in the conference semifinals so this year we have our sights set on a conference championship,” said Minkin. “We have only progressed individually and as a team since last year so we think we will be ready when the time comes. We returned most of our team and got a very strong freshmen class so we're just working on getting better every day.”

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