It took years to build, but now that Chaminade has its first boys volleyball championship in six years, it’s looking to go back-to-back.
The Flyers, who went 14-1 last year and have started this season 3-0, rely on a smattering of returning starters, but also on players who learned how to win a championship while playing smaller roles in previous years.
“These last few years we picked up a nucleus of guys who love volleyball and they are really into it,” coach Sal Trentacoste said.
Peter Petersen and Conor Flynn are two senior middle hitters leading the group. Setter John Chaves, outside hitter Alec Brutchin and libero William Sanchez are keys for the Flyers’ success.
“We know what it takes to repeat, but we always have to adapt and change our strategy,” said Petersen, a senior.
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The biggest threat to a Chaminade repeat? Kellenberg won two consecutive CHSAA titles before last year’s thrilling back-and-forth championship loss to the Flyers, 3-2, and pose a threat again.
“Adapting to Kellenberg’s offense,” Flynn said of Chaminade’s biggest challenge. “They have a lot strategy.”
Kellenberg (13-4) loses setter Ryan Branigan, the 2015 CHSAA Player of the Year. But the Firebirds return 18 players from last year’s squad who boast height and fast instincts. Coach John Heitner said Jose Marulanda is expected to “fill the shoes” left by Branigan at the setter position.
Kevin Keenan, a middle hitter, recorded 83 kills with a .42 kill percentage last season. Tyler Oleksiew had 70 kills. Aiden McManaman had 13 kills and will have a larger role on the team this year. Libero Michael Schumacher had 219 receptions and 158 digs, which led the team.
St. Anthony’s (10-5) will also in contention. The Friars are led by outside hitter Eric Peper, right-side hitter Daniel Kelerchain, outside hitter Callan Sartor and middle hitter Matthew Lambdin.
The Friars defeated St. John the Baptist in the playoff quarterfinals and lost to Kellenberg in five sets. This year’s team’s strength comes on the serve, said coach Donna Newman.
Holy Trinity (4-12) has a new head coach in Catherine Russini. Setter Brian Scott, hitter and blocker Jordan Woods, hitter John Kornobis, libero Jose Maldonado and setter Matt Arato will be key cogs in the Titans’ success. Scott is settling into his new setter position, and Arato is a sophomore who will contribute and be a big part of the future for the Titans, Russini said.
Setters Spencer Vid and Jimmy Coyle-Romano, middle hitter Jack Bernardini, libero Scott McDermott and hitter Nicholas Ponzio lead a St. John the Baptist (1-14) team hoping for improvement in coach Melissa Jensen’s first season.
The Cougars have strong middles and center, and they’ll try to strengthen defense this season, Jensen said.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Peter Petersen, Chaminade
The senior middle hitter took MVP honors at last year’s Francis Lewis tournament and was a big part of the Flyers’ championship run.
Conor Flynn, Chaminade
The senior middle hitter, a part of last year’s championship group, will take on a big leadership role this season.
Tyler Oleksiew, Kellenberg
The junior right side hitter stands at 6-foot-4 and leads 17 other returning players. He had 70 kills in 2015.
Eric Peper, St. Anthony’s
The senior right side hitter is a versatile attacker who also excels at blocking and jump serving.
Brian Scott, Holy Trinity
The senior is stepping into the setter role and has become a team leader in his final season, coach Catherine Russini said.