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Set for success

Following a 2016 elite eight run, the varsity boys volleyball team finds itself in position destined for success

Adam Janicki, Sports editor

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With a team compromised of much talent and experience, the varsity boys volleyball team aspires to place top five at state this year. Despite the loss of a couple starting seniors, close to all the team’s players have returned, providing valuable cohesion.

“We have a lot of potential to do better than last year,” rightside hitter Drew Callahan ’17 said. “Last year we were stopped in the elite eight, roughly fifth place, but this year we will be pushing ourselves to make it further. We are going to be hungry for every point in every game.”

The Lions have a trio of NCAA-bound players who have the power to command the game and execute big hits. These players include Callahan (MIT), Matt Slivinski ‘17 (Carthage) and Sean Ryan ‘18 (undecided). In order to compete with the best, each player will need to fill his piece of the puzzle and then some, Callahan said. The team lost its starting libero and setter last year, but Caleb Moskowitz ’17 and Adam Zimmerman ’17 have stepped up to replace them.

“There are a lot of juniors who have potential to lead the team this year with their experience at the varsity level such as Robert Spencer ’18, Ryan Barker ’18 and Ryan,” Callahan said. “We have so much talent matched with great chemistry, so we have pretty high hopes.”

In addition to being an elite presence at the high school level, Ryan has also attracted much attention at the national level. In February of 2016, he competed for a spot on the Youth National Team. Following the evaluation of the nation’s top volleyball players, Ryan, along with 23 other recruits, was given the opportunity to try out for the team. USA volleyball held the event at University of California State, Fullerton, where Ryan scrimmaged against the other recruits over the course of four enduring days. The final cut in April of 2016 left only 16 kids uncut, one of which was Ryan. Since earning his spot on the roster, he has been traveling across the globe each summer, competing against other nations.

“Playing for the national team has been an incredible, eye-opening experience,” Ryan said. “I hope to use my newfound knowledge to help us at the high school level.”

For the team this year, moving past the elite eight and winning it all is the main goal, varsity Head Coach Joann Pyritz said. However, in order to achieve success at the state level, the team will need to be clever and smart every game. Last year, the Lions played the highly-ranked Carl Sandburg Eagles in the first round at state. The team battled through two highly competitive matches, although they fell short in their second match, 23-25, ending their state run.

“Teams that have experienced pressure situations such as at state, will usually perform better with the next opportunity.” Pyritz said. “Our strategy has always been to utilize all of our players for scoring, so that our opponents have to work harder to stop us and this will be important in our quest for a top finish at the State Finals this June.   In addition, we believe in putting the best 6 players on the floor, irrespective of position,  and make sure that we can all play the total game of Volleyball effectively.”

Concentrating on team strategy and court coverage will be the main focuses this season, Pyritz said. Furthermore, cleaning up techniques around the court that aid in passing, setting and defense will give the team an edge over their opponents.

“Through the strength that we have with our seniors now who have a lot of experience at the varsity level, we have a great shot at making it back to state again and making it even further than last year,” Ryan said.

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Set for success