SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — One of the most important traits of a good team is a sense of complacency. Not in terms of quality of play or overall achievement, but every member has to embrace an assigned role.
A typical list includes a superstar, second scorer, top reserve and the defensive specialist. That last spot is one of the more thankless roles in sports. People in that role have to almost take the fall in order for the team to win. They dive on the floor, take the hits and generally don’t put points on the board.
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In volleyball that role belongs to the libero. The person in that role is not allowed to block, kill, serve and can only set in select situations. The job includes digging out as many balls as possible and keeping rallies alive so the big men can finish the job.
Nick Ferry relishes this role for Springfield and is a huge reason The Pride has advanced to the first Division III national championship game.
“I love defense, I think defense is a beautiful thing,” Ferry said. “I look at defensive players — I love it in soccer. Soccer is a beautiful sport where defense is an art. I think it’s fun, I think it’s just a part to give to the team and defense is necessary in every sport.”
He also has the mindset of most strong defensive players. Whatever is necessary to advance the team he is willing to make that play.
“I’m pretty much ball before body,” Ferry said. “I risk my body every time out there. I throw it against the floor every play. I’m trying to do whatever I have to do to get that ball up. Whatever I can to do to get that ball up it’s going to get up because it’s going to help the team it’s going to get everything going.”
Ferry’s efforts are not lost on his teammates. Mike Pelletier said The Pride does not go to the title game without their libero.
“Nick basically starts everything for us, he controls our back row,” Pelletier said.
“He’s the one that keeps us in system. So I think the balance that we have isn’t possible without him back there. So he’s incredibly beneficial, the control he has on the ball for all of us hitters at the net.”
Without even mentioning Ferry, it is obvious how important he is when talking to Springfield head coach Charlie Sullivan.
“I think the best teams in the world have the best liberos,” Sullivan said. “They solidify a lot, and make some spectacular game changing momentum plays on defense.
“It’s also emotional too; consistency is a big thing in volleyball. In our game two, we lacked a little focus and had some silly errors and some service errors. His play and his emotional control has kept the team consistent. It’s a crucial position.”
At first the libero was considered a default position for guys that weren’t as tall and not as athletic as the other guys on the floor, but according to Sullivan, what separates Ferry is he is the complete opposite, except for being tall.
“He can jump up on a box that’s like six feet tall and he’s only 5-8, 5-9,” Sullivan said.
“He’s a really athletic guy and when he focuses, sees the game, reads it and moves in I think he’s a really good libero.”
Now it is human nature to want to be the guy that puts points on the board and while Ferry enjoys his role as a libero, he likes to take a shot every now and then.
“Every libero wants to score,” Ferry said. “The thought comes out more in practice. I love scoring. I love hitting the ball. I get one hit before the game in warmups and that’s almost one of the highlights of the game.”