Shaler boys volleyball players gain experience at Junior Nationals
Defensive specialist John Erlewein, 16, enjoyed his first appearance at the USA Junior National Club Volleyball championships last month. What he was most taken by was the atmosphere.
Teams from the all over the country came out and put on a show.
“It’s a great experience to meet all these teams from around the country,” Erlewein said. “They care and take their time to travel to different cities and play against different teams. Playing against teams from California was crazy. It’s a great experience to meet all these teams from around the country.”
Erlewein was one of four Shaler players -- along with Jon Schimmel, Bill Dadowski and Brandon Miller -- at the event.
The Titans were all driven by a solid high school season, where they finished 7-5 in section and turned some heads by earning their second straight appearance in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.
Erlewein followed up that success by coming out for club for the first time.
“It’s an opportunity for me to get better as a player,” Erlewein said. “To get extra time, extra reps, it felt good I could be a leader on the team. To help lead a team for nationals and play for five days is great.”
Schimmel, a junior who played 16U for A-10 in the club division, helped lead a team that placed 40th out of 70 teams.
“They are a year-round team,” Schimmel said. “We don’t expect to kill them, much less beat them. We want to perform our best against teams like them.”
Dadowski enjoyed challenging the best other teams had to offer. Playing club has given Dadowski an opportunity to work on his hitting. He is working on trying to jump higher and put the ball down better.
“We would go against their biggest blocker or their best attacker,” Dadowski said. “We used it to our advantage.”
Miller, who was playing in the event for the third straight year, believes the event teaches a lesson in humility. Western Pennsylvania teams aren’t going to be the favorites to win.
So, there are going to be some teams they are overmatched against.
Playing tougher opponents made him tougher mentally.
“Shaking off mistakes and not letting mistakes get to me,” Miller said. “Having teammates support you makes it a lot easier when you make mistakes.”
Overall, it’s a good opportunity for everyone to see what makes other teams successful.
Replicating that success is the hard part.
“You try to pay attention to what you are doing and what they are doing differently than you,” Miller said. “Sometimes the teams we play are a lot more experienced and talented than us. Playing teams from California and Hawaii are a lot different because they play year-round.”