Vernon volleyball program showing growth
VERNON — There were some news faces, not just to the varsity level, but to the sport itself for the Vernon High School boy’s volleyball program this spring.
While there’s certainly going to be bumps in the road and mistakes to be learned from under such circumstances, the Vikings stood tall this season.
They reached double digits in the win column with 10 victories and advanced to the NJSIAA North I Sectional Tournament as the No. 9 seed and made it to the quarterfinal round before losing a 2-1 match (25-20, 23-25, 25-17) to top seeded and eventual sectional champion Fair Lawn. Vernon topped eighth-seeded Jefferson, 2-1 (32-34, 25-17, 25-18) in the opening round of the sectional tournament.
“Our freshmen have improved the most, which is no easy task," Vernon coach Jeff DeYoung said. “Libero Chris Ploch and setter Parker Shade continue to make significant improvement. Very rarely has our varsity program asked so much of first-year players, especially in a starting role. Statistically, Chris is our second-best passer in serve-receive and Parker’s growth has allowed Damian [Priestner] to transition from setter to outside hitter. Both players exceeded all expectations and will help shape the success of the program in years to come."
Priestner, a senior, was amongst the top notch leaders for the Vikings this season.
“Damian stood out as a leader along with junior Logan Costello," DeYoung said. “Damian is a versatile player who has helped us figure out our starting rotation playing three different positions this season — outside hitter, opposite and setter. Logan, from a playing perspective, leads with his production. At this point, he is one of the best hitters in North Jersey and carries a heavy load for our offense. He doesn’t back down from the defense and hits with authority and conviction. Logan broke our single-season kill record-in the best-of-three, rally-scoring era-with 250 kills. With the two of them being as effective as they are, we were able to get creative with our lineup, allowing us two utilize both of their skill sets in a way that was productive for team growth."
DeYoung recalls two matches from the season that truly showed what the Vikings were capable of when playing at their best.
“Two matches stand out for this season," DeYoung said. “The first was our loss to Hillsborough on May 7. Although we lost to a top 10 team, given our inexperience and progress to this point, the fact that we lost by two points in both sets (31-29, 25-23) showed us that we had the potential to play with the upper level teams in the state, although our overall record would lead you to believe otherwise.
“Our second standout match was our victory at Jefferson to open sectional tournament play. We suffered our first loss to the Falcons ever earlier in May, so we were excited to get another shot at redemption. We asked our experienced players to step up and lead by example, we asked our young and inexperienced players to play above and beyond their potential and we were able to put it all together to advance in the North I Sectional tournament."
The Vikings have plenty of reasons to be excited for the 2015 season.
“Easily the optimism comes from the returning players, some of which never played volleyball, let alone varsity, until this spring," DeYoung said. “We will return four starters from this year’s squad, Logan will be senior, and we should be able to implement a system that will allow for continuity and efficiency. The younger players are excited and are looking for opportunities to improve in the off-season, something that used to be a staple of the program. It’s refreshing to see that mindset re-emerge."
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