Norwin boys volleyball team overcomes inexperience to start 6-1
Coming into the season, it appeared the Norwin boys volleyball team would be in rebuilding mode with only three returning starters and a lack of varsity experience.
But with a 6-1 start, one thing is clear — the Knights didn't rebuild. They reloaded.
“I thought we had some good players,” Norwin coach Al Warden said. “I just didn't know how good. We do have a lack of experience and size. But I thought we would be a playoff team and maybe compete for the section championship.”
Norwin only returns three players who gained varsity experience last season: outside hitter Remi Lojas, middle hitter Grant Saunders and libero Andy Halza.
The trio has stepped up as the leaders this season. Lojas suffered a lower-body injury during basketball season but has played through it, showing his commitment.
“Remi is a tough kid,” Warden said. “He has excelled at digging and passing. Grant can be a physical force. They have all brought a lot of leadership to the team.”
From there, it is a roster filled with players with a lack of varsity and big-game experience. But it doesn't mean it is a young team.There are a number of seniors who had to play behind a loaded team last season.
“These guys were waiting their turn,” Warden said. “We had a heck of a team last year. We didn't end up where we expected. We had some good volleyball players last year.”
And the players this season are ready to prove they are, too. Senior Matt Schaich has been a presence at outside hitter and a catalyst for Norwin's offense. Senior Andrew Chenot also has stepped in at the outside hitter position.
Senior outside hitter Brady Gross and middle hitter Zane Kaigler also have produced for the team.
Halza has been in and out of the lineup at times, but senior Tanner Carr has been able to step up and fill his spot at libero when called upon.
“We don't miss a beat with Tanner,” Warden said. “He has looked good and should help us down the road.”
Even some underclassmen have stepped up: sophomore Jake Williams was expected to be a JV player, but with several players not returning, he was thrown into varsity action. Williams saw some time with the varsity basketball team this season
“He is a smart player and athlete,” Warden said. “He has filled the role nicely. He is pretty quick.”
In addition to inexperience, Norwin is lacking an abundance of size. Saunders is the team's tallest player at 6-foot-3. While they won't be able to tower over the net, the Knights are focused on excelling in other areas.
“We sold them on serving tough and playing defense,” Warden said. “We want to serve as well as we can and play some floor defense. So far, it has kept our heads above water.”
Nathan Smith is a freelance writer.