Butler volleyball players hit road for national tournament
The past, present and future of Butler boys volleyball are hard at work this summer.
All three were on display at the 35th annual United States Boys Junior National Volleyball Championships from June 28 to July 5 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.
Matt Huey, who graduated in June, senior Chris Fiorina and incoming freshman Nash Bryan all took part in the national event with their respective Pittsburgh Volleyball Club teams.
Huey played for the 18-under Pittsburgh Black team. He helped his squad capture the Flight 2 championship in the 18-under Open tournament.
“Just the level of play down there, it's crazy,” he said. “All the teams are so good. It was a good experience and it was pretty fun.”
In the 36-team tournament, Pittsburgh lost its first four matches. The team picked up a win on the second day, but dropped its last three matches of pool play. The team was placed in the Flight 2 bracket and won all three matches to claim the title.
“We started off kind of slow,” Huey said. “To be able to finish strong was a lot better.”
Huey joined the Pittsburgh Volleyball Club in the winter and was glad to have a chance to experience this tournament with his new club team.
“Typically, as a team we went out to dinner down there or some of the parents even made dinner for us. We toured around the city and just hung around. We didn't really have much time to go and do anything really,” he said. “I just met these guys over the winter. They are great. I love playing volleyball with them. Playing at highest level was really exciting.”
Butler's volleyball program had a strong 2014 season. The Golden Tornado challenged for a section championship and advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals. Huey, an outside hitter, was one big part of the success. He was named the co-MVP of the WPIAL Class AAA all-stars.
“It's what I was striving and striving for this past season,” he said.
In addition, he was named to the PVCA Class AAA all-state team.
“That was very exciting to see I made all-state,” he said. “All the hard work paid off.”
Huey will continue his academic and athletic careers at Penn State Altoona in the fall.
“I am really looking forward to it,” he said.
Fiorina, a libero, was part of the Pittsburgh Volleyball Club 17-under Black squad. The team competed in the 17-under Open tournament.
“It was amazing. It was a lot of fun,” he said. “We played some amazing teams down there. We competed with every one of them.”
Fiorina's team dropped its first three matches in pool play, but rebounded for two wins on the second day. However, the squad fell in its last three pool play encounters. It entered the Flight 2 bracket and won its first match, but was eliminated with a defeat in the semifinals.
“I think we underachieved a little. A couple errors and points here and there and it could have been a different story,” said Fiorina, a WPIAL third-team all-star. “Overall, it was a great experience. My teammates are the best guys I could ask for. They are great players, but they are great teammates and friends, too. We played soccer down there one night and pickup basketball. We ate dinner every night together. It was, all in all, a fun time with my teammates.”
Because the different tournaments were spread over different days, Fiorina and Huey did not get to see each other in Houston. However, they play together in a summer sand volleyball league.
Freshman Bryan played for the Pittsburgh Volleyball Club 15-under Black team, which participated in the 15-under Open tournament. The squad went 4-4 in pool play. However, the team dropped its first match in the Silver bracket.
“Nash is very, very good at volleyball. I am looking forward to playing with him as a freshman,” Fiorina said. “I can't wait for next season.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.