WVC Boys Volleyball: Teams Look To Close Gap On Holy Redeemer
Jack Kablick saw this very same situation three years ago. And if the Holy Redeemer head coach forgot, Royals athletic standout Julia Andrejko reminded him as she stopped by a recent boys volleyball practice.
It was three years ago when Kablick started almost all sophomores on his girls team. That move paid dividends in the future, as that group reached the state championship as seniors this season.
Now, he’ll face the same situation with the boys team in 2019.
“We will be vulnerable in the beginning of the season, but this team is going to grow up pretty quickly,” Kablick said. “We have three really tough tournaments on three straight weekends. They will get to see where they are at really quickly.”
While the Royals, state quarterfinalist one year ago and ranked preseason top 5 in Class 2A, are expected to again lurk at the top of the league, the gap between the other schools might have tightened some.
Why is that?
The Royals lost Offensive Player of the Year and Citizens’ Voice POY Ben Rachilla in addition to seniors Zach Walker, Matt Piontkowski, Dominic Adameck, Joey Judge and JD Turosky.
“We lost 85 percent of our rotations” Kablick said. “We only have six-and-a-half rotations back in the back row, and six rotations back in the front. Jared (Piontkowski) has the potential to be league MVP, and we know that George (Beck) is going to be solid. But we are going to be playing a lot of our talented junior-varsity kids from last season.”
If it’s not Redeemer, look for three teams to make a run.
Delaware Valley was 11-1 last season, with its lone loss coming against the Royals. The Warriors, reigning district 3A champs, bring back Logan Gallagher and have plenty of offensive weapons.
Berwick, runner-up to Redeemer in 2A, lost Joe Norce, but return attackers Zach Evans, Nick Norce, Shawn Powell, and WVC Defensive Player of the Year Misael Hernandez.
And up at Tunkhannock, the Tigers may find themselves in the 2A hunt with Avery Billings, Trejon Turner and Paul Binner all back.
There are two interesting changes in terms of playoffs — one statewide and one locally.
First, Valley West has moved down to 2A for the postseason. Gone are the trips to Allentown and Easton to face off with District 11 foes. Instead, the Spartans get to stay closer to home and have a better chance to grab one of the district’s three state playoff spots.
“It’s like a breath of fresh air,” WVW head coach RJ Tomascik said. “Not that it’s going to be easier because you still have to go against Holy Redeemer. But we get to stay closer to home and play against similar-sized schools that we are familiar with. I think our kids are excited for a new opportunity.”
The second shakeup affects everyone in 2A as six-time defending state champion Northeastern High has moved up to the 3A classification. That means a new titlist will be crown in 2019. Manheim Central, which lost in four sets to the Bobcats in 2018, are still 2A and ranked in the state.
Coach: Sarah Warner
2018 league record: 9-3
Team Outlook: No doubt, the Bulldogs have a roster that’s primed to challenge for the district’s 2A championship. Berwick lost Joe Norce, who accounted for 143 kills in 2018, but do return Voice all-star selections Zach Evans and Misael Hernandez, who was selected as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year one season ago. They also have an experienced setter in Santiago Segura and two junior middles, Shawn Powell and Nick Norce.
Coach’s Outlook: “Our biggest strength is our experience and our versatile offense. Our goal for 2019 is a return to the district championship match and coming away with the title.”
Coach: Mike Day
2018 league record: 2-10
Team Outlook: This will be the final season in volleyball for Coughlin, as Wilkes-Barre Area is going to combine schools next season. Coughlin is the only WBA school that fields a boys volleyball program. The Crusaders have a roster of about 20 kids, which could bode well for the future when the team combines with GAR and Meyers next season. The team lost leader Derek Whitesell off last year’s two-win team. It won’t be easy opening up with DelVal, but there are some winnable matches early in the season.
Coach: Mike Williams
2018 league record: 6-6
Team Outlook: Expect to see a Comet team that’s competitive in each match. Mike Williams lost two key components off last year’s 6-6 squad, including four-year starter Michael Williams — who had more than 1,000 assists in his career and 100 kills last season — but returns experience in John VanFossen, Dylan Kronick, Connor Novatnak and Jake Sheldon. The veteran head coach also has experience with junior setter Adam Williams, who took over setting duties midway through last season.
Coach’s Outlook: “We do have a lot of experience. Losing Mike is tough because he was such a good leader on the court. It was like having another coach out there. But we only lost two starters off last year’s team, and we have some momentum after winning six of our last eight games. It was important to end on such a positive heading into this season. We’re hoping to make a push to get into the top-half of our league.”
Coach: Bill Schutter
2018 league record: 3-9
Team Outlook: It could be a rebuilding year in the Back Mountain. Schutter has four returners — Dante Marianacci, Kevin Allen, Logan Evanosky and David Cooper. Marianacci and Cooper are expected to split the setting duties, while Evanosky could be the featured hitter.
Coach’s Outlook: “Our weakness is just inexperience as we have a lot of new kids out this year. The goals coming in are to just improve with each practice and game. The wins will come as long as we can eliminate our own errors on our side of the net. Even though they are inexperienced, they work hard and are focused. I believe they can improve tremendously from last season and finish with a winning record.”
Coach: Heather Holdredge
2018 league record: 11-1
Team Outlook: The Warriors may be poised to climb to the top of the Wyoming Valley Conference standings. DelVal lost very few off a team that finished 11-1 in 2018 with its lone setback coming to Holy Redeemer. Head coach Heather Holdredge also has Logan Gallagher back. The senior was a first-team all-conference selection one season ago and finished with more than 200 kills and 100 service points one season ago. While the Warrriors lose Mark Piotrowski to graduation, they also return an experienced setter in Thomas Raniero and junior Jackson Shafer.
Coach: Debbie Gavin
2018 league record: 0-12
Team Outlook: It could be another rebuilding year for veteran coaches Debbie and Jim Gavin at Nanticoke Area. The team graduated Voice all-star selection Carlos Castillo off a team that went winless on 2018. Gavin will really rely on Tyler Rushton and Christian Mavus in the early season to help lead an inexperienced squad.
Coach’s Outlook: “It’s a good group of guys that really seem to enjoy playing the game. They work hard at practice and are willing to listen and improve. We are just going to take it game by game, and we will see what happens. Our goal is to just improve each day.”
Coach: Don Pientka
2018 league record: 2-10
Team Outlook: Don Pientka comes over from Coughlin to take over the Hanover Area program as long-time area coach Bill Kane resigned. The team has a good nucleus of juniors, and only one senior in Sean Balderston. The problem will be navigating the early part of the schedule where the Hawkeyes take on Tunkhannock, Redeemer and Delaware Valley in the first six contests.
Coach: Juliana Poplawski
2018 league record: 8-4
Team Outlook: The Cougars won eight games in Poplawski’s first season and hope to improve on that mark in 2019. Hazleton Area lost Voice all-star Everett Fritz, who is playing at Wilkes, but returns eight players: Kevin Blanco Reyes, Alec Plesh, Ryan Bersavage, Brody De Persia, Nick Molino, Christopher Wolk, Kendrick Martinez and Cristian Posada. Poplawski said that her team did lose many of her varsity starters due to graduation, but feels confident in her returners.
Coach’s Outlook: “The boys work well together, and are very coachable. You can sense their determination and perseverance on the court at practice. They always give 100 percent. I want them to work together and be the best that they can be. I want them to have a successful season in which they can be proud of.”
Coach: Jack Kablick
2018 league record: 12-0
Team Outlook: It’s going to be a new-look Royals team as Holy Redeemer lost a good deal from last season’s district championship team, including Citizens’ Voice Player of the Year Ben Rachilla. Kablick does return talented junior Jared Piontkowski, who was fourth in the WVC with 148 kills last season. Also back is George Beck and Dominic Cirelli.
Coach’s Outlook: “We are inexperienced, but it is a lot of fun at practice with this group. Our guys pick up things pretty quickly, so that’s encouraging to see. You might see five sophomores on the court at one time. We went to a nine-team scrimmage, and we did some good things. It was a good eye-opener for the kids to see what’s out there.”
Coach: Chris Kukosky
2018 league record: 4-8
Team Outlook: If there is a true darkhorse team in 2019, look no further than Lake-Lehman. Head coach Chris Kukosky didn’t lose anyone off of last year’s 4-8 team, and that record was extremely deceiving as the Knights kept it close with many of the league’s best. Those seven juniors on last year’s team are now seniors with a good year of experience under their belts. Expect to see Justin Timonte, Sean Sabaluski and Andrew Jubis all primed for a strong season. Those three combined for 20 kills in a five-set loss to Crestwood.
Coach: Justin Bechaver
2018 league record: 7-5
Team Outlook: It could be a slight rebuild for normal WVC stronghold North Pocono as Justin Bechaver loses two strong seniors off last year’s seven-win squad. Gone are Jonathan Haikes and his 296 assists, and powerful hitter Colin Coles, who had 31 kills in one match last season. And the Trojans will still be pretty young as there were nine freshman and sophomores on the 2018 roster.
Coach Outlook: “There is definitely the dedication and work ethic we need to be successful this season. The returners have set the pace for the rest of the team, which will ensure everyone is giving 110 percent, as a small roster will surely pose some challenges.”
Coach: Jeff Howell
2018 league record: 8-4
Team Outlook: Could this be the year Tunkhannock can break back into the top 2 in the WVC? On paper, it sure seems that way. While the team lost Evan Turner, who finished with 114 kills and 40 blocks last season, they do return Avery Billings, Trejon Turner, Paul Binner and Andrew Slacktish. Billings, a 6-foot-9 middle, could be an early POY candidate as he led the league in blocks, and was fifth in kills.
Coach’s Outlook: “We want to return to the district playoffs and better ourselves from last season.”
Coach: RJ Tomascik
2018 league record: 6-6
Team Outlook: The numbers are good at Valley West as Tomascik has 21 kids on the roster. There is still some inexperience in Plymouth, but the head coach believes his team could make a run toward the top-half of the WVC. The Spartans graduated Voice all-star selection Joey Burridge, but return Pete Scholl, David Luff and Michael Featherstone. Scholl could be the team’s featured hitter, while Featherstone is expected to lead the back row.
Coach’s Outlook: “We are hoping to take a good step forward, and that experience from last year will pay off come this season. Plus, we are excited to be at the 2A level. We don’t have to worry about making that trip down to Allentown. We get to stay local and play teams that we are familiar with.”