Based on talent, depth and experience alone, Sachem North could be one of the best boys volleyball teams on Long Island this season.
The extra motivation from an upset loss in last year's playoffs could push them over the top.
"It motivated us like you couldn't imagine," said senior Rob Steinberg of the team's only loss in 2013, a 3-1 defeat to Sachem East in the Suffolk Class A semifinals. "It's all we think about. Everyday we come to practice, we just think about how much we were devastated."
"That was the fuel on the fire throughout the offseason," added fellow senior Dylan Missry.
Most of the key players return from last year's squad that went 15-0 in the regular season, dropping only four sets in the process.
"Our expectations are even higher this year," said coach Matt Rivera. "We have great leadership with our seniors who are coming back for a third varsity season."
Missry and Steinberg headline the senior class. Missry, an outside-hitter hitter, set school records for total kills, kills per match and hitting percentage in 2013.
"He's at the top of his game right now," Rivera said of Missry. "He's the focal point of what we're doing."
Rivera said Steinberg will "leave Sachem with just about every setting record there is." Steinberg had 561 assists last season and came into this year with 972 in his career.
Senior Nick Miller also will play outside hitter, while converted libero Matt Grace, a junior, will start as opposite hitter. Junior Ryan Nolan will move into the libero role.
Missry and Steinberg are quick to stress the reasons for the team's success go beyond the starting lineup.
"It's not just the six guys that are getting the credit," Missry said. "It's [also] the guys in practice."
"The reason we're so good is because we're so deep," Steinberg added, crediting the team's second string for pushing the starters "everyday in practice."
With that depth pushing the strong starting lineup, Sachem North looks primed to make a deep playoff run this season.
They certainly won't be lacking motivation.
Players to watch
STEVEN LOPEZ, Port Washington, Senior, Outside Hitter
ALLEN DURUTOVIC, Plainview JFK, Senior, Middle
NOAH NARDONE, Rosyln-Senior, Right hitter/setter
JUSTIN LEE, Jericho, Senior, Middle,
FRANK GALIANO, Bellmore JFK, Senior, Libero
NICK SMITH, Massapequa, Senior, Setter
BRYCE COHEN, West Hempstead, Senior, Middle
CHRISTIAN GARCIA, Floral Park, Senior, Setter
ALEC NADJARI, Port Washington, Senior, Middle/outside
BRIAN WANG, Plainview JFK, Senior, Right side hitter
DYLAN MISSRY, Sachem North, Senior, Outside Hitter
PAUL CLOSE, Sayville, Senior, Right hitter
MARK JENSEN, Bay Shore, Senior, Outside Hitter
SEAN HARRINGTON, Sachem East, Senior, Outside hitter
ROB STEINBERG, Sachem North, Senior, Setter
BLAKE HOGAN, Bay Shore, Senior, Outside hitter
TYLER BRANDOW, Eastport-South Manor, Senior, Outside hitter
BRENDAN WELLER, Smithtown East/West, Junior, Setter
TARIQ SOLIMAN, Whitman, Junior, Outside hitter
MATT GRACE, Sachem North, Junior, Libero/Outside hitter