The former Fairport standout has helped the Engineers move up to 14th in the country. MIT entered this week on a six-match winning streak.
Paul Syta knew what he was getting into when he decided to attend MIT after graduating from the top of his class at Fairport in 2010.
“The best way I can describe it is like trying to drink out a fire hose,” Syta said about the academic challenges of the private research university in Cambridge, Mass. that has produced 24 Nobel Prize winners. “You get so much information at once, there is no way to take it all in.”
Syta did just fine making the transition from high school to college in the classroom. It was on the volleyball court where he had his greatest disappointment.
He suffered a torn labrum in the offseason before his first season with the Engineers men’s volleyball team, and his college debut was put on hold for year. Syta isn’t the type of person to sit on the sidelines and pout.
The former Red Raider standout was a fixture on the sidelines at practices and matches, cheering on his future teammates. On the court, Syta has spent the last two seasons demonstrating his value to the MIT program.
The junior setter entered this week leading the Engineers with 989 assists and has played in all 29 of the team’s matches. MIT (18-11) has won six straight matches and is currently ranked 14th nationally.
“This season has been going pretty well, we have shown that we can play with everybody we have faced,” Syta said. “It is just a matter of us going out and continuing to try and improve. We think we can hit our stride by the end of the season.”
Syta has been catalyst for a team that is hoping to play in the NCAA Division III championships on its own floor next month. The Engineers have already proven they can compete with the top teams in the country suffering 5-game losses to national powers Nazareth and Springfield.
“He the runs the offenses well with a lot of confidence,” said Paul Dill, MIT head coach, about Syta. “He has been more than a leader on the court for us, he has been a stable influence on the court.”
Syta made up for his lost freshman season on the court last year when he ranked second on the team in digs, third in aces and fourth in blocks. This season he has already eclipsed his assist total from last year (879).
For Syta though last year wasn’t just about strong individual stats. His team gave him exactly the kind of results he wanted, finishing 26-9 overall.
Syta built confidence early in the season at the Golden Flyer Invitational when MIT defeated host and defending national champion Nazareth to earn third place. He excelled in front of friends and family recording 36 assists against the Golden Flyers.
Page 2 of 2 - “I was cleared to play at start of season and got swept up into playing and being part of the team,” Syta said. “It went fast for me and everything started to blend together. Each match felt important. Everyone on the team wanted to pave the way for future success.”
Syta started playing volleyball in the seventh grade and two years later he was pulled up to the Fairport varsity team. After a promising freshman season Syta injured his shoulder in the offseason and didn’t play as a sophomore.
He was never far away from the program though attending every match his sophomore year and working out with the team during practices. Syta bounced back his final two seasons with the Red Raiders and was named All-County First Team his final two seasons.
“He understood whether it was a practice or a game, when he was doing somethinng, it was always an opportunity to improve,” said John O’Dell, Syta’s head coach at Fairport. “Every practice, every match he came to compete. He was always trying to be perfect in everything he did.”