Matthew Dolan is a setter — of examples and volleyballs.
The senior on the St. John the Baptist boys volleyball team no longer carries the weight of a young team on his shoulders. With another year of valuable experience under their belts after falling short in last year’s CHSAA semifinals, the Cougars have aspirations of making program history.
Dolan had 19 assists and seven kills, and junior Michael Anderson backed him with 23 assists and four kills, as host SJB took care of Holy Trinity, 25-18, 25-19, 25-17, on Friday evening.
Sweeps have been a common occurrence for the Cougars, who’ve handled Kellenberg, Chaminade and St. Dominic by playing the minimum three sets. Beating Chaminade was a stepping stone, Dolan said.
“I’ve been here for the last four years, and they’ve beaten us every time except for the one prior to that,” Dolan said. “Getting a win against them is pretty big.”
The goal this year is to win the program’s first championship and Dolan is motivated having lost to Chaminade in the final two years ago. He keyed SJB (4-0) during its infrequent lulls against Holy Trinity (2-2), assisting hitters Peter Liegey (11 kills), Denis O’Donoghue (10) and Alec Portera (eight).
The middle of the second set posed St. John the Baptist’s only true threat to staying unbeaten. The Cougars committed consecutive errors that put Trinity ahead 11-8. Anderson then assisted Liegey, putting Dolan on the service line down 11-9.
He served the next eight points — including two aces — and finally yielded serve to Holy Trinity when he attempted a powerful jump-serve that just barely hit the net. The Cougars led 17-12 when Holy Trinity regained serve, but Liam Byrne’s defense helped ensure the Titans would not recover.
“Once I get a few floaters in and I feel pretty good, I try to jump-serve,” Dolan said. “It usually works out pretty well for me. I just try to keep the ball in because I know how good we are. If they pass it over, I know we’ll get the next point anyway.”
That confidence has trickled down to the players he’s mentored, specifically Anderson, who’s in just his second year setting. The two switch between setter and opposite hitter, allowing both to defend while not sacrificing a quality hit on the second touch. With two competent setters, SJB’s offense often runs like clockwork.
Coach Melissa Cantelmo said she’s been impressed with Anderson’s growth from both practicing and imitating the example set by Dolan.
“That’s the kind of kid that Matt is,” she said. “He sets by example, so they all learn from him, but specifically Anderson because he is a setter.”
With both Dolan and Anderson running the show, SJB is set for a run at history.