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West Shamokin wins in clash of young boys volleyball programs

| Tuesday, April 2, 2013, 11:30 p.m.
Bill Shirley | For The Leader Times
West Shamokin's Damon Craig (right) looks to score against St. Joe's Sam Predebon in Tuesday night volleyball action at West Shamokin High School April 2, 2013. Bill Shirley | For The Leader Times
Bill Shirley | For the Leader Times
West Shamokin's Anthony Rocco (left) and Ryan Dean look to score against St. Joseph in a Section 2-AA volleyball match on Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at West Shamokin High School.
For The Leader Times
St. Joseph's Sam Predebon (right) tries to take a shot around West Shamokin's Damon Craig during a Section 2-AA match Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at West Shamokin High School.

Both West Shamokin and St. Joseph's boys volleyball programs are in the midst of construction projects, but what each is building vastly differs.

St. Joseph intends to put together a memorable season while it still has players left in the program. West Shamokin wants an inaugural campaign that increases excitement about the team at the school and does justice to the memory of the now-defunct Elderton program, which served as a predecessor.

Each followed their blueprint to some extent Tuesday night when they squared off at West Shamokin High School in a Section 2-AA match, which the Wolves (1-0, 1-0) claimed, 3-1.

St. Joseph (0-2, 0-2), in its third year and comprised entirely of seniors, went through spurts of success during each of the games but only emerged as the victor in Game 3, 25-16.

West Shamokin, relying on a mix of players who attained experience at Elderton and newcomers, endured a rollercoaster evening on its way to wins of 25-23, 25-18 and 25-18.

“I think near the beginning, we weren't into it because we felt nervous and we felt pressured,” said West Shamokin senior Kevin Kaplon, who finished with three blocks, three aces and eight kills, including the match-winner. “I think (the new players) were afraid to mess up. … They're just getting used to the game.”

St. Joseph surged to a 5-0 lead in Game 1 and forced West Shamokin to call a timeout to slow momentum. For the Spartans, who hope to earn their second playoff berth and finish third or better in the section for the first time, the opening minutes were sublime.

Just as quickly as momentum shifted in St. Joseph's favor, it slid away. West Shamokin went on a 5-1 run to cut the deficit.

Another St. Joseph run gave the Spartans an 18-12 lead. And again West Shamokin answered.

A kill by senior Damon Craig forced the first tie, 23-23. A block by Ryan Dean and an unforced St. Joseph error delivered West Shamokin the win.

“Passing is obviously a shortcoming for this squad, so to fall behind like that, it's tough to fight back without all the full skill set,” St. Joseph coach Paul Tomlinson said.

Three kills by Rocco helped start the deciding run in Game 1 — he finished with six kills and two blocks. Dean logged four blocks for points and two kills. Craig hit a team-high 11 kills.

Reid Tomlinson, Paul's son, led St. Joseph with nine kills, three blocks and two aces. Bobby Celender also earned nine kills, and Sam Predebon added seven kills and four blocks.

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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