Relatively inexperienced West Shamokin hopes to perform well in playoffs
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With West Shamokin locked into another boys volleyball playoff spot, the Wolves hope to make something happen when the postseason begins.
The Wolves have a roster dotted with first-year players, but the team has been able to weather highs and lows to maintain a hold on third place in Section 2-AA.
A tough five-set loss Tuesday night at Deer Lakes cost West Shamokin (4-6, 3-3) a shot at second place, but the match was representative of the Wolves' season.
West Shamokin showed the ability to take a 2-1 lead over the perennially strong Lancers, only to have inconsistent play cost them in the final two sets.
“We actually played them tougher (in the first meeting) at our place. We were up 15-9 in both of the first two games but just couldn't close,” West Shamokin coach Scott Craig said. “Right now, that's our biggest thing. We don't have anybody that's been able to take the team and say let's get it done, and that's tough when you have so many first-year players.”
West Shamokin has shown an ability in recent weeks to compete with top teams.
Besides forcing Deer Lakes to five sets, the Wolves posted a strong showing Saturday at the Seneca Valley Tournament. West Shamokin finished second behind District 10's Fort LeBoeuf in its pool with a 6-3 record, and in the knockout rounds, it beat Farrell before falling in the quarterfinal to the hosts, a Class AAA power.
“I definitely see where we're doing better connecting with our passing, from the back to the setter to the hitters,” junior middle hitter Brenden Glover said. “We did great at our last tournament, but we need to get consistent. That's our biggest problem right now.”
Glover is one of only a few returning players for the Wolves, though he didn't play his sophomore season because of an injury. Outside hitter Ryan Dean led the team in kills at the Seneca Valley Tournament and in the section match against Deer Lakes, and another outside hitter, Chris Schink, is a returning letter winner and starter.
Though the team has plenty of seniors, more of them are first-year players than returners. Outside hitter Brady Cornman and libero D.J. Hough have stepped into key roles for West Shamokin as seniors this season, and sophomore Adam Crise has taken over the setter duties in his first year with the program.
“Brady Cornman, as a first-year senior, has really come along better than expected,” Craig said. “I knew he was an athlete, but he's come a long way. I'm just mad he didn't play four years for us.
“Adam Crise came in and played well as a setter in his first year, and that's a tough position to learn how to play. Between those guys, and Garrett Clark, who has also played well, they're coming along.”
The Wolves wrap up their regular-season schedule with their final home match Thursday against first-place Derry before playing at Ford City and in the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Tournament next week.
After that comes the WPIAL tournament, where West Shamokin's players hope to be playing their best volleyball of the season.
“I think we're becoming a lot more fluid on the court, we just need to avoid the low points that we have in matches,” Glover said. “Our goal is to get better and do as best as possible in the playoffs. If we could win a round, maybe a couple of rounds, it would be awesome.”
Getting that first playoff win would be a big step for West Shamokin, which has never won a playoff game either as its own team or as part of its old cooperative team with Elderton.
“I think we have the potential to win in the first round, but it's going to come down to whether the kids want it. I've wanted to for the last six years,” said Craig, who previously coached on the Elderton staff. “It just seems like we can't quite get there every year.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.
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