Deer Lakes boys volleyball team perseveres
Jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts will tell you it's difficult to get a completed product when you have pieces missing.
Deer Lakes boys volleyball coach Rick Tatrn would beg to differ.
Despite rarely having his strongest players on the court at the same time due to vacations, school functions, and injuries, Tatrn and the Lancers have compiled a 13-2 record heading into the WPIAL Class AA playoffs which begin this week.
"We always seemed to be missing someone during the season," Tatrn said. "I believe everyone's going to be here (for the playoffs). We should have all the numbers and all the pieces."
Junior middle hitters Darin Van Horn and Zak Roberts are key players. Van Horn stands at 6-foot-4 while Roberts is an imposing 6-6. Both are three-year starters who have helped guide the team to a Section 2-AA title with a 12-0 mark.
"They're two great kids to build a team around," Tatrn said. "They attack and block strong and can pass the ball well. They're complete packages in the game of volleyball."
Filling in the rest of the puzzle are many other starters who have three or four years of varsity experience. The three starting seniors on the team are outside hitter Ryan Graney, setter Tyler Kurtz, and backrow player Ed Bigler.
"Tyler's been our setter for four years now. He doesn't have a lot of size, but he can get the ball to the big boys," Tatrn said. "Graney isn't a terribly strong hitter, but he's a tremendous passer and shows a lot of leadership."
Graney's leadership style is a mixture of leading by example and motivating the team vocally.
"The team relies on someone to look after them, and I think I do a pretty good job of that," Graney said. "I try to keep them positive and make them play every play like it's the first play."
The team has a strong following, particularly from its alumni association. The association maintains a Web site, which lists the program's accomplishments. In fact, the team paid homage to the 1978 PIAA championship team by wearing throwback jerseys for a match against Steel Valley earlier this season.
"It was very exhilarating to play in that game because we have so many fans that were members of that team," Graney said. "We wore the jerseys against Steel Valley because that was the team that the 1978 team beat in the WPIAL and state championships."
Pairings for the playoffs will be announced Monday.