Pine-Richland volleyball team looks to build off of last years success
Perhaps the best way to follow up a successful high school season is to return most of the team that enjoyed the success.
That is the situation Pine-Richland boys volleyball coach Brian Neely finds himself in this season.
“We were pretty young last year, so there was not much loss — we lost a 6-foot-6 starter in the middle, but he was a first-year player last year,” Neely said.
One of the brightest spots for the Rams is senior all-section outside hitter Alan Jacks. Not only is Jacks a talent on the court, he recruited some of his basketball teammates to come out for the volleyball squad, a move that will add to the talent and depth this season.
Some of the new recruits — Tim Williams, a 6-foot-7 middle hitter and Sam Dunsmore, another middle hitter who stands 6-4 — will be tough matchups for the opposition. Also coming over from basketball were 6-3 senior right-side hitter Nate Roberts and Allen DiNisi, a defensive specialist.
Another all-section and all-WPIAL standout is setter Kevin Kunkel. Mike Jones is an outside hitter who will help the team.
The junior class has some skill, as well, starting with libero Jared Todorowski and front row utility player Nick Langer a returning starter.
Sophomore Tommy Barone is a strong passer, according to Neely, and senior middle hitter Caleb Wulforst has pushed the starters every day. Defensive specialist Kevin Dressing is a player who also will see some time.
“We have some strong guys on the bench, something that gives us a chance to play six-on-six,” Neely said. “Zach Lehman and Luke DeMarco are part of that group.”
Neely took over the Rams last year after they had not won a match in two years. He turned the program around, winning enough games to get into the playoffs. Although the Rams lost in the first round, the team saw what it took to be successful, and the squad looks to carry on this season.
“Getting to the playoffs was big,” Neely said. “I hope that experience pays dividends. We have set the goal as a first-round playoff win, and then we will see what happens.”
Neely said he has a ton of athletes and expects them to have a big role if the team is to be successful this season.
“We are trying to change the mentality,” Neely said. “The perception was the volleyball was kind of a joke, but we seem to be doing well, getting the basketball players to come out. So we will see what happens.”
Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.