New coach brings successful system to Hempfield volleyball team
First-year Hempfield boys volleyball coach Chris Dinkel is drawing on some of his prior experience in the sport to help lead the Spartans to success this season.
As a former player and student assistant at Juniata College under former head coach Larry Bock, Dinkel became very familiar with the system that made Bock's teams so successful. Under Bock's watch, Juniata women's volleyball won the 2004 and 2006 NCAA Division III titles while the college's men's teams advanced to three straight Final Fours from 1997-99.
Now at the helm at Hempfield, Dinkel has implemented that same system to help the Spartans compete in a difficult Section 3-AAA schedule.
“I'm kind of trying to get these guys to buy into this system as we did. ... It's getting them to kind of buy into it and they're really starting to see it work,” Dinkel said.
“Without giving all the secrets away, it's using that communication aspect that volleyball requires and making it kind of a pinnacle part of the offense.
“(It's) hitters calling their routes constantly, just applying constant pressure even when you don't have the volleyball. Just making sure that you're always talking, that your teammates constantly know who the setter is, where he is, where the hitters are. ... It causes a whole lot of confusion, at least it's intended to.”
Dinkel cited early improvement from his team, evidenced by the Spartans bouncing back from section losses to Norwin and Penn-Trafford by beating Gateway last week to start the season 1-2.
A team that relies primarily upon juniors and seniors, the Spartans are led this year by senior Cameron Updyke (right-side hitter), junior Zach Wilson (outside hitter), senior Marcus Weakland (libero) and senior Sim Waseer (setter).
For a team that is well balanced and, according to Dinkel, doesn't rely too much on any one player, the Spartans have spent a lot of time early in the year practicing the fundamentals of the game.
“We've really worked on passing,” Dinkel said. “If you can't pass the volleyball, you really can't run much of an offense at all.
“We could teach this quick offense all we want, but if we can't pass we're not going to be able to run it, so we're kind of just honing those passing skills and introducing the attacking skills.”
After mastering the fundamentals of the system, the Spartans hope to turn their attention to some more specific details of the game.
“Now what it is, it's moving that focus from passing to be able to run an offense and attacking the volleyball,” Dinkel said. “We're not killing the volleyball very well right now, and we're not reading blocks.”
While Dinkel realizes he may not be able to fully install his system immediately, he hopes Hempfield continues to improve and rise to the level of traditional powers of Norwin and Penn-Trafford.
“I'm hoping that we see some success, that sure helps,” Dinkel said. “I always tell them I seem to have a lot more fun when my teams win, and I personally as a player had more fun when we win. I want them to be successful, and that's what we're trying to do.”
Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.