Preseason Talk Amps Up the Boys Volleyball Team In Preparation For an Unforgettable Season

Ruben Rojas, Photo Editor

     As the weather gets warmer and we say goodbye to the coldness, we say hello to spring sports. Boys volleyball, girls lacrosse, softball, boys lacrosse, boys baseball, track and field, and boys tennis. Specifically, boys volleyball has a lot of potential as they move from class 3A to 2A. Senior, Tyler Nelson, Sophomore, Jay Sumner, and Freshman, Gabe Watson weigh in on preseason expectations for this year. 

What are your expectations for this year?

     Tyler Nelson, a seasoned player and a 6 year member of the team, talks about how he feels this season should play out. “My exceptions have been the same from year to year. I expect a group of guys that give it all at practice and play the game, not for themselves, but for the others on the court.” He goes on to say, “With that being evident this season, a section championship, WPIAL championship, and a state playoff run are very possible.”

     Jay Sumner, a newcomer to the team, tells us how he expects this season to play out from a newbie point of view. “I think we will win a lot of games this season. Watching how we play at scrimmages and practices really shows me that we have the capability of making it to the very end.” Sumner, who just started and already earned his spot on the varsity lineup as a middle, is a crucial factor in making it to the end. 

     Gabe Watson, a freshman who’s new to the team from junior high, has earned his spot on the varsity lineup from years of experience with his sister, who was a member of the girls team. He shares, “I expect our team this year to do very well throughout our season. We have a lot of really good players who I know will contribute to help our team get very far.” Being on both junior varsity and varsity is a great feat, only something few get to do. 

How do you plan to use teamship as a way to achieve these goals?

     Nelson explains, “The bond this team has created is such a great thing that I am beyond thankful to be a part of. In just a matter of months, all of us have grown so close where we are not just on a team but we consider each other friends. We put aside our differences and just realize that high school is such a short time in our lives that we want to have positive memories from.” As a senior, Tyler wants to spend the rest of his high school volleyball career not stressing about the small things. “As a senior with years of team experience, this team is unlike any other, we all have clicked and that has shown on the court. This close bond and brotherhood will take us far on the court but also off the court through life’s challenges.”

     Watson shares, “A lot of us on the team are close on and off the court so I feel like our teamwork will be very important. I will try to encourage the team when we are down, so we can all rebuild our energy to finish the game strong.” The most important thing to a team is to not get down when you are down. Bringing the team together and realizing that you can’t let the deficit get to your head is the best thing teammates can do.

     Sumner goes on to say, “I think our team chemistry this year is really good. Everyone on the team seems to get along really well which helps everyone communicate and play better.” 

     Team chemistry is the most important thing to this team. They constantly are going out to eat after events and practice to further improve their connection off the court.

How has the preseason helped you and the team get ready for this season?

     Tyler, who led most of the preseason conditioning and practices, shares, “The preseason has tremendously helped my teammates and I prepare for this season. With multiple weeks of open gym and conditioning, this team is prepared to win.” With conditioning and open gyms taking up 4 days of the week, this team has put a lot of effort into making this a great season. “Another key factor that will help drive this year’s success is the amount of players we have playing some sort of club or travel volleyball during the off- season. Just off the top of my head, 9 players on the varsity roster competed for a club team this winter, 6 of which will either start or see varsity playing time.” Club season plays a tremendous role in this team’s goals. Out of season playing gives those who want extra practice the opportunity to get better and bring those skills back to the high school team. 

     Gabe Watson explains how the preseason training was important. He says “Preseason has for sure been a great impact to myself and the team. Conditioning was able to help the team get prepared for the season and get them ready for actual practices and games. Preseason also helped build the team’s chemistry early on and got some of us new kids more comfortable.” With the upcoming class of 26, it was important to make sure they felt like they had a place on the team, and that just because they were a younger group, doesn’t mean they should feel left out. 

     Jay, who experienced the preseason training for the first time this year, shares, “Preseason has helped me improve on my play a lot. It has helped our team get in shape and just get back into the rhythm of things.” 

Do you think the drop from 3A to 2A will significantly affect how this season plays out?

     Tyler has played under both classes and knows what the competition is like on both sides. He shares, “Absolutely the drop will positively affect this team this season but also for seasons to come in the future. With the talent we have on this year’s squad, a section championship and a WPIAL playoff run would have been expected if we fell under the 3A, but competing with volleyball powerhouse schools (North Allegheny, Seneca Valley, Shaler Area) graduating almost double the amount of kids we do, it’s difficult.” The boys made it to playoffs last season, but fell to Upper Saint Clair in the first round. This time around, they have a better shot since they don’t have to worry about said powerhouse teams. “The biggest worry of dropping a classification was the possibility of not getting to play Norwin, Penn Trafford and Hempfield – teams we have been playing multiple times each season. Fortunately, all three of the teams have agreed to play us, even though we are no longer in the same section. Shifting the focus back to 2A, our chances to win this classification are very high with the schools being more around our size. The only drawbacks to this drop is the increased amount of travel to our section opponents and having to play private schools. For example North Catholic, Seton La Salle, and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart are 2A schools that are known to have recruited players to create powerhouse teams. This will be a challenge, but our guys have the ability to win the WPIAL with flying colors.”

     Gabe, who technically didn’t have to worry about classifications in junior high, but has seen what a drop in class can do from his sister’s season just last fall, shares his insights on the drop. He says, “I believe even though we dropped from 3A to 2A, we will still do just as good with our season. No matter who we go up against, I believe we have a good shot to beat them.” 

     Sumner, who also hasn’t experienced any play in these classes, felt that he didn’t have the knowledge to comment on what this effect will have. 

      The stakes are high for this team. Every player has their eye on the WPIAL championship and expects to walk away from the season with a few pieces of jewelry hanging around their neck. The bar is high, but their determination to make this the best year is even higher.