Norwin volleyball using fast-paced offense to offset lack of height at hitting positions
TribLIVE Sports Videos
At 6-foot-5, Norwin senior Dan Conwell defies the size of a common libero by about half a foot.
“I don't feel scrutinized,” Conwell said recently. “I think when we get into the game, everybody forgets about it, and you worry about playing your own game, scoring points and winning matches.”
That philosophy is working well for the Norwin boys volleyball team this season.
While the Knights boast “the tallest libero in the WPIAL” and one of the smaller front lines in recent team history, their overall success is continuing this season. The third-place team from the WPIAL in 2013, Norwin won its first six matches of the season without dropping a set and is 7-1 entering the week.
“Without a doubt, they are definitely a different team,” Norwin coach Al Warden said. “I've always had a strength in the middle. The guys that are in the middle (this season) are doing good, but they are not our focal point of offense at the moment. ... This year, our strength is definitely on the (outside).”
Unlike previous years, when Norwin boasted several hitters at or around 6-5, only one key hitter approaches that height this season — 6-6 opposite-side hitter Kevin Zabelski. Other Knights hitters include 6-3 Jay Grushecky in the middle and Aaron Shaffer (6-2), Jake Kljucaric and Zeke Kljucaric (both 6-1) on the outside.
While the Knights are smaller, they play faster. Warden said the offense, led by 5-11 senior setter Nick Nguyen, is the fastest he has run in his time at Norwin.
“Last year, we tried to run a faster offense,” Nguyen said. “This year, we're really running faster on the pins with Jake and Aaron on the outside and Kevin hitting opposite. Jay runs a really fast middle. I think our offense is probably the fastest (it's been) in awhile.”
The fast-paced offense is designed to leave opponents wondering which hitter is getting the ball. It allows Nguyen to sort through his options and find a teammate hitting against a single block.
When it's working correctly, not even Norwin's hitters know who's getting the ball until it comes to them.
“That's the thing about our offense: It's always good because you never know when you're getting the ball,” Jake Kljucaric said. “You've got to be ready every time.”
While the offense is working, the Knights are trying to improve their defense. Warden said the team's smaller height puts a premium on passing, and the team is focusing on improvement in that area heading into the second half of the season.
Norwin's first loss of the season came last week against defending WPIAL champion North Allegheny, and the Knights are hoping for another crack at the Tigers at the end of the season.
“If you'd have told me in January (we'd) be 7-1 and undefeated in the section, I'd say, ‘OK, I'll take that,' ” Warden said. “Our offense is good enough. We need to improve defense and blocking. That's the two areas we're really going to work on over the next week to two weeks.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Gateway girls volleyball gunning for playoff spot under new head coach
- Franklin Regional volleyball sets higher goals for 2014
- Height, skill trademarks for Plum girls volleyball squad in 2014