Despite using different lineups throughout season, Derry boys volleyball finding success
That was the answer to a question Derry boys volleyball coach Shawn Spencer posed to his players at practice last Wednesday.
The question had nothing to do with the number of kills Matt Vasinko has racked up, the number of assists Jake Zemba has dished out, or even how much the Trojans would relish getting another shot at Ambridge in the WPIAL playoffs.
Spencer had asked his team if they knew how many different lineups the Trojans had put on the floor so far this season.
Because of injury and illness, Spencer has had to employ several different player combinations on the floor throughout the year. And for the most part, the makeshift lineups have translated into victories.
“We have a number of kids who can play a variety of positions,” Spencer said. “We won the Plum tournament with a lineup we hadn't used all year. The kids have to be able to make adjustments.
“They've stepped in and done the job.”
Derry (9-3) entered this week having already clinched the Section 2-AA title. The Trojans owned a perfect 7-0 mark in section play heading into their regular-season finale at home against Summit Academy earlier this week.
While versatility has been a hallmark of the 2014 Derry squad, Spencer also points to the unselfishness displayed by his players as an indicator of this team's success.
“This is a true team,” Spencer said. “They've set aside individual aspirations for the good of the team.
“This is an unselfish group of kids with common goals.”
With the WPIAL playoffs fast approaching, Spencer feels his team is getting healthy and playing its best volleyball at the right time.
“We've been playing well,” Spencer said. “As experienced as we are, as long as we stay healthy we have a chance to make a good push in the playoffs.”
The regular season concludes this week, and the playoffs are slated to begin on Tuesday.
As part of its postseason preparations, Derry traveled to North Allegheny — one of the top teams in Class AAA — last Friday. The Trojans lost the match 3-1, but they gained valuable experience against top-notch competition.
“They're a perennial power,” Spencer said of North Allegheny. “It was a tough challenge for the kids.”
Spencer would like to see his team improve its ball control and become more efficient at serving the ball once the playoffs get under way.
“Ball control can always get better,” Spencer said. “If we can improve our serving game, it will give us more opportunities to score easy points.”
At the start of this week, senior libero Izaak Fulmer-Moffat led the Trojans in digs (188) and aces (29). Junior middle hitter Ian Malis has collected a team-high 44 blocks.
Vasinko, a senior outside hitter, owns the team lead in kills (287) and is second in digs (82).
Zemba, a junior defensive specialist, has notched 475 assists on the year.
Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.