While the outdoor sounds of “ping” from the metal bats and the “bang” of the starter’s gun from track meets were going off in the spring season, inside South Jersey gymnasiums were echoes of thuds from bodies diving and balls being spiked down onto the hardwood floor as the boys’ volleyball season played out.
And as the season drew to a close, the players who stood out among their peers were honored. The South Jersey Volleyball Coaches Association chose a Player and a Coach of the Year in addition to selecting 20 athletes to form the All-South Jersey first and second teams.
For the second straight year, the committee tagged Erik Egan of Sterling High School as the South Jersey Player of the Year. The senior outside hitter notched 279 kills, 13 blocks, 166 digs, 13 assists and 24 aces in his final season. The All-Conference first-team selection also set the school-record for kills in a career, finishing with 667.
“Erik is always playing volleyball and he is constantly working on his game and trying to be a better player,” said Sterling coach Daniel Stuart.
In addition to the phenomenal numbers he puts up, Egan’s greatest strength is his leadership.
“Erik is constantly approaching me with ideas on how to make the team better, how to approach other teams and their best players,” said Stuart. “He encourages the young players and gives them pointers on how to get better.”
While Egan headlines the first team, the roster also features nine other individuals who played major roles for their respective schools: Bill Fischer (Eastern), Jeff Nelson (Moorestown), Tyler Comose (Pennsauken), Peter Tran (Pennsauken), Wade Coomer (Eastern), Marvin Jones (Sterling), Kyree Thomas (Pennsauken), Joe Kerr (Eastern) and Zach Bernardino (Williamstown).
Second team choices include: Jared Morales (Sterling), Aaron Haegele (Cinnaminson), Stan Storchevoy (Kingsway), Jake Rudin (Cherry Hill East), Brandon Carpenter (Cinnaminson), Max Maycock (Williamstown), Anthony Santos (Williamstown), Nick Sammartino (Kingsway), Tyler Cavarocchi (Eastern) and Adam Herman (Clearview).
Touting the biggest presence on the first team with three representatives, Eastern head coach Tom Armour considers himself very lucky to have had three selections on the top squad as well as a member on the second team.
“Any time a team is fortunate enough to have these quality players,” said Armour, “it brings more recognition to them and makes their high school playing experience that much more rewarding. It’s a great feeling for them and me.”
For the Vikings, Fischer cemented himself as one of the most powerful hitters in the region. He set a state record with 15 solo blocks in a straight set match against Livingston. The senior finished with 189 kills, 71 solo blocks, 64 assists and 20 aces. Meanwhile, Coomer racked up 126 kills, 93 assists and 21 aces. A three-year varsity player, the outside hitter compiled an impressive .404 kill ratio. According to his coach, Coomer, who is heading to Johns Hopkins University, is one of the smartest players he’s ever coached. Kerr, the third member of Armour’s to be a first-team pick, became one of the best servers in the area, hitting a “good serve” 97% of the time. The setter also totaled 767 assists. Cavarocchi, a junior, tallied 46 blocks and 42 kills while boasting a serve percentage of 96%.
“I would have to say that being recognized is a great feeling,” said Coomer. “Not only personally, but to also see several of my teammates receive the same recognition is truly a testament to what we did as a team this season.”
“It feels really good accomplishing a goal that I set in the beginning of the season,” said Kerr.
Kerr and Coomer also noted the team’s tournament wins in the Eastern Invitational, Livingston Invitational and the Eastern Pre-Tournament Tournament (prior to the state tournament) were definite highlights in an impressive 18-3 season that landed them the No. 2 seed in the South sectional playoffs.
“We've always put together a pretty competitive team, but this year all the pieces fell into place,” said Coomer. “It meant a lot to us, coming from the underrepresented South to a predominantly North Jersey tournament (in Livingston), to make it all the way to the top.”
Likewise, Sterling, Pennsauken and Williamstown are also well represented with three players from each school receiving All-South Jersey honors.
While Egan garners much of the attention on the Silver Knights, Jones and Morales deserve a lot of appreciation for the seasons they had in 2014. Despite playing in only 14 games, Jones collected 81 kills, 30 blocks, 11 digs, three aces and one assist. His coach noted that Jones, who missed the first six games of the year, was a “dominating middle through the last week of the regular season and throughout the playoffs.” His teammate, Morales, garnered second-team recognition in his first year at the varsity level. The junior had 536 assists, 52 digs and nine aces.
All three of Sterling’s standout players played vital roles for a team that fell in the South sectional championship round to No. 1 seed Southern. In that final game, Egan had a game-high 13 kills, Morales set the pace with 23 assists and Jones led all players with five blocks.
Williamstown was knocked out earlier than expected in the playoffs but the loss didn’t take anything away from their talented trio. Bernardino set the school-record with 1,314 career assists. The senior had 519 assists to go along with 85 digs and a team-best 95 service points this year. Outside hitters, Santos and Maycock, had 140 and 185 kills, respectively. Unfortunately, an injury forced Santos to miss his team’s final six games.
The other two programs that saw two of their players receive All-South Jersey honors were Cinnaminson and Kingsway. Each school had two players earn second-team status.
Clearview, Moorestown and Cherry Hill East each had one player represented.
Herman, a four-year starter with the Pioneers, led the team in kills (10 per game), blocks (4 per game) and aces (25 for season). For Moorestown, Nelson leaves the school as the career leader in kills and led the team in every category this season.
While the athletes enjoyed receiving the recognition after months of training and hard work, there was one coach who was labeled the best among his peers: Pennsauken’s Jack Killion.
He coached his team to a 19-6 record and guided the Indians all the way to the South section’s semifinals as a No. 5 seed where they lost to the eventual champion, Southern. Under Killion’s guidance, the Indians had three players named to the first team. In their upset win over No. 4 Williamstown in the postseason, the team’s three All-South Jersey selections were instrumental in leading the charge. Comose had a game-high six digs with 10 kills, Thomas added 10 kills of his own to go along with four digs and Tran posted a game-best 27 assists in the 2-0 win.
"When Kevin Jeffers and I took over the program seven years ago we started with 14 kids and barely had enough for a varsity and a JV team,” said Killion. “Our program has grown to over 85 kids coming out this year and fielding varsity, JV, freshman and practice squad teams.
"I am proud of how hard my kids have worked and their dedication to spreading school pride throughout Pennsauken. We have the loudest gym around rivaling (any other school) and that's solely attributed to the kids of Pennsauken who come out in droves to support our program now.
"Being a Pennsauken graduate (1995) and a former volleyball player at the school during the second year of the program I'm excited to see how far we have come from then and cannot wait to see how far we can go in the future,” Killion concluded.
The first Saturday of the boys high school volleyball season has always been a huge tournament day. This year is no different with at least five tournaments around the state including ones here in South Jersey at Eastern and Moorestown High Schools.
Eastern, which is hosting the Eastern Invitational for the 19th straight year, has more of a statewide representation. In addition to the Vikings, who will field two teams, Williamstown and Washington Township will represent South Jersey and will be joined by Wayne Hills, Livingston, St. John Vianney, Manchester Twp., Old Bridge and Bayonne. Williamstown, Livingston, Old Bridge and Bayonne all finished 2013 ranked in the Nj.com Top 20.
Pool play begins at 8:30. Washington Township, Wayne Hills, Manchester Twp., Bayonne and one of the two Eastern squads will make up the White Division. The Blue Division will have Williamstown, Livingston, St. John Vianney, Old Bridge and the second Eastern entry. The top three teams in each group will advance to the playoffs. Livingston defeated Williamstown to win last year’s tournament.
Eastern coach Tom Armour said both his teams will be competitive but he acknowledged he’s keeping his top group together. They are seniors Bill Fisher, Wade Coomer, Joe Kerr, Ari Goldodski and Sonny Vaishnani, junior Tyler Cadrocchi and promising sophomore Johnny Schamer.
As is their custom, the Vikings, who opened the season on Tuesday with a 2-0 win over Pennsauken, traveled near and far this preseason for scrimmage matches.
“I think we won all but three games against Hillsborough,” said Armour whose team scrimmaged Pennsauken, Clearview, Kingsway and Paul VI in addition to a number of traditionally strong North Jersey teams.
With a strong field assembled for Saturday, the Vikings should have a decent idea where they stand heading into the season.
Meanwhile the Moorestown tournament will have a decided South Jersey flavor. Twenty teams, divided into five groups of four teams, will begin pool play at 8 a.m. Saturday.
After the first round of pool play, the groups will be scrambled and there will be a second round of pool play. Following the second round of pool play, the teams will be seeded and the top 16 teams will begin a double elimination tournament with teams 1-8 in the Gold Pool and 9-16 in the Black Pool. Champions will be crowned in each pool.
Moorestown coach Scott Atkinson said his Quakers will be young but experienced this year.
“We’ve picked up some experience,” Atkinson said. “A lot more guys played club (volleyball). We scrimmaged Southern Regional and I think we lost both games by six or seven points, but I figure if we can hang with them we should do pretty good down here. We have a pretty good schedule.”
The Quakers will start senior outside hitters Jeff Nelson and Blake Iepson and two players off the Quakers football team, senior Shane Lawless (linebacker/tight end) and sophomore Mike DiMarino (quarterback), are the middle hitters. A pair of juniors, John DiLorenzo and Bob Doglian, are good, tough hitters and Johnny McGinley is the libero.
They’ll see plenty of action on Saturday as the Quakers finish their preparations for the season ahead.