Walsh Jesuit boys volleyball team working on consistency
CUYAHOGA FALLS — Walsh Jesuit boys volleyball head coach Connor McCluskey said his team is “doing a great job of being a scrappy volleyball team.”
“Our skills might not always look that great, but we do whatever we can do to make the next best play,” he said.
According to McCluskey, the team has a nice blend of returning players and newcomers.
“We have a mix of both eight returning varsity letter-winners and four new varsity members,” he said.
One top returnee is senior middle blocker Thomas Hite, who was second-team honorable mention, All-North Region, in Division II for 2011.
The team’s other seniors are: Christopher Tweed, outside hitter; David Klaben, right side; Kyle Ferrara, defensive specialist; and Ryan Vellequette, outside hitter and defensive specialist.
“They’re doing very well,” McCluskey said. “They’ve really stepped up big time. I’m pretty proud of them. They were a little slow at first, but they’ve come on as of recently.”
The coach called this year’s seniors “a close-knit group.”
“This group has gone to school together since kindergarten through senior year of high school,” he said. “They started at Holy Family and now are graduating from Walsh Jesuit this spring. They are all like brothers in a way.”
Hite, Tweed and Ferrara are serving as the team captains this season.
“They are the leaders on and off the court,” McCluskey said. “They have led by example by organizing all preseason open gyms, holding team meetings and even getting new freshmen to come out this season.”
The juniors are led by middle blocker Rob Russell, who was a 2011 Division II honorable mention player for the All-North Region.
Other key contributors include junior Austin Seislove, who has moved from libero/defensive specialist to outside hitter, as well as setter Michael Panning and libero Anthony Collins.
Last season, the team finished with a 21-5 record and made it to the regional final game. At roughly the midway point of this season, the team’s record stood at 7-7.
“We’re probably a little behind where I’d like to be, but we did have some injuries that caused a little bit of a hiccup,” the coach said. “And we’ve played a really tough schedule. We’ve traveled all around the state to see the best competition around, and we’ve been competitive in almost every match that we’ve played.”
McCluskey said his team still needs to work on consistency.
“We sometimes force ourselves to play an unorthodox style because we aren’t the most consistent on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “When we play consistently, we do quite well. When we don’t play with consistency, we make it much tougher on ourselves.”
However, McCluskey said, the team has shown improvement as the season has progressed.
“We had a rough spot [a few] weeks ago, losing four of the first six matches,” he said. “We showed some improvement by making a few changes to the lineup and bringing in key players from the bench when we need to. I think we will grow from the first two weeks and get much better as we progress through the season.”
Despite the slow start, McCluskey said, the Walsh boys volleyball team’s goals remain as lofty as ever.
“The goal never changes with our program,” he said. “We strive to compete at the highest level each season, and we will put our goals of competing for a state championship. We should be back on track for the playoffs.”
McCluskey is in his 10th year as the team’s head coach. The remainder of the Walsh boys volleyball coaching staff is comprised of assistant coaches Kalyn Suplicki and Andy Kerr and junior varsity head coach Emily Koesters.
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