When it comes to Sachem North boys volleyball’s dominance over the last two seasons, the numbers speak for themselves: a 37-1 record, 119 victorious sets out of 128, two Long Island Championships and one state title.
This season, the biggest number is five: the number of new starters for the Flaming Arrows.
“There’s pressure, but that just makes us want to work harder and continue the streak,” said Sean Hannett, the lone returning starter from last year’s team that went 19-1, reached the state final, and completed a third straight unbeaten regular season.
“Our success has come from working hard on and off the court and we’re looking to continue that tradition,” the senior outside hitter added.
The Arrows’ efforts to replace the departed seniors — which include Long Island Player of the Year Matt Grace and All-Long Island libero Rob Nolan — will center on Hannett playing a larger role, as well as a pair of impact juniors.
“Sean’s experience and leadership have already played a big role,” coach Matt Rivera said. “He has a way of settling guys around him down and he can take over games.”
As for towering juniors Connor Pallmann and Alec Lehnert, the duo has forced a shift in the way the Arrows play.
“Connor and Alec are the big guns,” Rivera said. “They’re definitely different players than we’ve had in the past. This is the biggest team we’ve ever coached, so we can play more of a power game.”
“Alec is 6-7, and he can take up a whole side of the court and attack the ball from anywhere,” the coach added. “And if you’re building a volleyball player, you build it to look like Connor. He’s 6-5 and has a crazy wing span. He’s the guy we want to get the ball to as much as possible.”
Hannett also said to expect more aggressiveness from the squad. “Our play on the court this year is more offensive than last year,” he said. “We attack the ball a lot now.”
While the style of play will be different, Lehnert said the current crop of Arrows want to emulate the past group in other ways, most notably in terms of cohesion on and off the court.
“Their type of style always made communication and playing together as a team a top priority,” he said. “We just have to work hard and follow that legacy.”
The Arrows will also feature middle hitter Ross Arcuri and libero Dan LaRosa, who were role players during the Arrows’ run to the state final last year. Sophomore Jack Driscoll steps into the setter role.
The road back to the state final will not be easy, as Class A rivals Smithtown West, Lindenhurst, Ward Melville and Northport return significant firepower to set up what should be an exciting fight for the county title and beyond.
It’s a challenge Pallman and his teammates have embraced.
Said the junior: “It’s great to be in a position to repeat what the guys in the past have done and hit the first three-peat in our school’s history.”