By: Joe Sager
Friday, March 15, 2019 | 7:49 PM
Plum’s boys volleyball team hopes the rebuilding project is a quick one.
The Mustangs finished 2-12 last year while laying a foundation for this season. With only four seniors graduated from that team, there is more experience on the court this spring.
“Things are going pretty well, so far. We had our first scrimmage against Upper St. Clair, North Hills and Gateway and there were times where I thought we played very well and times where I did not think we played very well,” Plum coach Keith Nonnenberg said. “The kids have been wonderful, though.”
Nonnenberg is in the second year of his second stint with the program, the first coming in a successful run from 1996-2006. He’s pleased with his team’s desire to improve.
“I think their strength is their willingness to learn and to work hard,” he said. “Due to the fact we were unable to get together in the preseason, I expect a little bit of a slow start. We have a lot of ground to cover before the North Allegheny tournament (on March 23). There’s so much to go over and they are soaking in the information.”
That’s especially true for senior setter Matt Carroll, who returned to the program after playing his freshman year.
“He is a phenomenal athlete. Having never set at the varsity level, there’s a learning curve involved,” Nonnenberg said. “It’ll take a few weeks for him to get used to the speed of the game and completely understand what’s going on. That’ll be a big X-factor. We’re lucky he was willing to step in and play this year. Without him, I don’t know what we would have done at setter.”
The Mustangs look for big things from 6-foot-5 sophomore Alex Vidas, who was a major contributor last year at middle hitter. He’s moved to outside hitter now.
“He is quite possibly our best all-around player,” Nonnenberg said. “As soon as the high school season ended, he signed up for a club team and played all year round, and that full year of experience is really important. We have to find two other varsity players who can play in the middle. When you’re in the middle, there’s play going on around you 360 degrees. It’s important to have good court awareness.”
Sophomore Browndon Wafo and senior Will McFarland could see time at middle hitter. So could Evan Azzara, a 6-5 sophomore who is playing volleyball for the first time.
“With it being his first year, at the net, in terms of hitting and blocking, he is varsity caliber already,” Nonnenberg said. “He just needs to learn the system and where he needs to be in all situations. I think he’ll contribute at the varsity level.”
Seniors Matt Allman (outside hitter) and Andrew Wright (right-side hitter) could start as well. Seniors Connor Zik, Cody Sepp, Shane Hutchison and Matt Brown and juniors Darren Polishen and Jake Carradine could be in the Mustangs’ rotation.
“I think there is a lot of natural talent. We have kids who can jump and block. I think we’ll be significantly better at the net this year, compared to last year,” Nonnenberg said.
“When these kids first learn the game, they are pretty one-dimensional. I think one of our biggest keys to success this year is learning what to do if everything isn’t just right. They have to learn the alternate shot, whether to tip over a block or roll a shot over a block; they need to learn when they should swing and when they should not swing.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.