The numbers are a little low, there isn’t much varsity experience and offensive firepower might be hard to come by. So the Warwick Vets boys’ volleyball will focus on what it can control – having six players on the court playing fundamentally sound volleyball.
“We’re definitely in a rebuilding year as far as experience,” said new head coach Brendan Friel. “From what I understand, the numbers were a little low last year and they had a lot of seniors. So we have a lot of new kids and it’s kind of in flux right now. But we’re just working on the fundamentals. If we can master those and get six guys on the court playing solid volleyball, we can be competitive.”
Friel takes over the boys’ program from Jean McGarry, who had run both the boys’ and girls’ teams for many years. Friel played volleyball at Vets and was a captain in 2001 and 2002. He’s been an assistant wrestling coach with the ’Canes for the past two years, but this will be his first foray into volleyball.
Another former player, Justin Amaral, will be an assistant coach. Together, Friel and Amaral are hoping to lay a solid foundation.
“We’re excited,” Friel said. “We both played, and coaching is a little bit different. We had the Injury Fund on Friday, and some of our new kids looked as nervous as I felt. But it’s exciting. We’re ready to get started.”
The ’Canes lost a big senior class last year, one that included most of their top contributors and all their go-to players. The way the roster looks at this point, only juniors Max Andrade and John Moore have varsity experience.
“We’re really relying on them to set the tone,” Friel said. “We want to see what they did last year and what was working for them. They’re facilitating a lot of that.”
A few other experienced players could join the team when grades come out next week, but for now, everybody else on the roster is new.
“It’s in flux right now,” Friel said. “It’s a lot of new kids. We’ve had as many as 20 at practice. We’re hoping to be able to have a full varsity and a full JV team.”
Many of the new players will step right onto the varsity court, like first-year seniors Jacob McClendon and Christian Valladolid. Valladolid previously played tennis, and his experience there could carry over to volleyball.
“He’s raw, but you can see he has that court awareness,” Friel said. “He has a good feel for it.”
For everybody else, that kind of feel will come with more court time, and the ’Canes are already getting some. They played Injury Fund games last week and showed some good things. But the matches also reinforced Friel’s desire to work on fundamentals.
“The two biggest flaws were serves and communication on the court,” Friel said. “If we get those down and improve in those areas, that’s going to go a long way. We saw a lot of good things. We just shot ourselves in the foot too much.”
Strides in that department might be baby steps for a while but eventually, Friel thinks the ’Canes will be able to hold their own every time they step on the court.
“The expectations are just one day at a time right now,” Friel said. “We’ll set goals from game to game, and then once we have a set lineup and start getting a grasp of the fundamentals, the expectations are going to get higher. I think it’ll come. We just have to work hard.”
Vets will open the season tonight with a 6:30 p.m. match at Pilgrim.