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TJ boys volleyball still finding room to grow

| Sunday, April 13, 2014, 10:18 p.m.
Ken Reabe Jr. | For The Tribune-Review
Thomas Jefferson's Luke Good (8) attempts to block in front of Altoona's Adam Borst (13) during the Spartan Invitational Volleyball Tournament on Saturday, April 12, 2014, at Hempfield High School.

In his four years of starting for Thomas Jefferson, setter Luke Good has seen it all, but he said this year's team is a different feeling.

“The difference between this year's team and the last three I've been on is this team is willing to put in the effort and work,” Good said. “This year's team really wants to win and is focused on winning the section, which is great.”

Midway through the season, the Jaguars (4-2, 4-1) are in the playoff race in Section 3-AA, and coach Frank Staffen said it started with captains Good and Adam Patrick.

“I'd say Luke's one of the best setters in our section,” Staffen said. “To go hand-in-hand with him is our middle hitter, Adam Patrick. Those two work pretty well together. With them being so well timed, they know what to do. They don't even need to communicate.”

Good credited Patrick's willingness to put in the extra work during the winter for his big jump in his second year starting.

“He worked really hard in the offseason and really dedicated more time than anyone expected of him to get better, and it's really paid off for him,” Good said.

The Jaguars' 5-1 formation features five hitters, including juniors Gabe Cappetta and Christian Valecko and sophomore Jake Dobransky, who Staffen said has been a solid utility player.

“He's very good at reading the block,” Staffen said of Dobransky. “He won't overpower you with his shot, but he knows how to hit it. He has a mixture of shots.”

Returning nine starters, the Jaguars don't lack experience, but Good said slow starts have become too common, and that has to change if the team wants to make a deep playoff run, that has to change.

“I honestly don't think we reached our full potential,” Good said. “I don't think we had a whole game where we can say we totally dominated a team.”

A 3-2 comeback win over Steel Valley on April 2 served as a wake-up call. After dropping the first two sets, TJ won the final three to win the match.

“That was a big, emotional one,” Staffen said. “The emotion kicked in, and they realized they had to step up.”

The Jaguars competed at the Hempfield Tournament over the weekend without some starters who were on a school field trip. They advanced to the playoff rounds before losing to Norwin.

Justin Criado is a freelance writer.

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