The Daniel Boone High School boys' volleyball team is coming off its best season in program history. The Blazers went 9-3 last year in a very tough Division 1 of the Berks League, then went to the semifinals before losing to Wilson.
The team lost some key members of that team to graduation, but the Blazers are anxious to see if they can back-up that season with another good one. Head coach Tom Hefner believes they can do just that.
"We're excited to start another season and continue building a successful program,' said Hefner. "We lost some amazing kids to graduation, but we have a couple pieces of last year's lineup still on the team. We're excited for the guys filling the open positions in our lineup this year and believe they will help us get to the playoffs and make noise again.'
Yes, the Blazers lost some good players to graduation, but they have a lot of experience on the team, including seven seniors, four of which have been playing since their freshman year.
"We have a combination of experience and youth,' said Hefner. "We believe we have enough experience to help the young guys assimilate quickly into our lineup and contribute right away. Most of the guys that will be on our varsity team have played club volleyball over the winter and have gained some valuable experience playing the sport at a high level.'
Among those players is Connor Choate, who was named to the All-Division team last year. He will move from libero to the outside this year.
"He's a good athlete and has incredible fundamentals,' said Hefner. "He gained invaluable experience this past winter playing on the most premier 18 and under club team the state of Pennsylvania has to offer — Yorktowne VBC.
Dan Downs is a senior middle hitter who has been playing since his freshman season. During his previous three seasons with the Blazers, he has been exclusively a front row player. This year he will also see time on the back row.
"He's a good all-around athlete,' said Hefner. "His passing and defense has improved greatly and we will need to lean on his leadership skills and strong desire to win.'
Noah Coates will be the new setter. He spent time on the JV team the past three years, being groomed to be the setter this year.
"He has good hands and instincts in delivering the ball to our attackers,' said Hefner. "He's a very cerebral player and has situational knowledge that helps him outsmart the opposing team.'
Repeating last year's season will be a tough goal, but it certainly is reachable if things fall right for the Blazers. Hefner just wants his team to reach its potential, which might then result in a division title.
"We'll need to focus on the little things, and for each individual to complete their job to help us win,' said the coach. "We can't take any nights off in practice or competition. Every time we step on the court, we need to have a growth mindset.
"Since division I of Berks is so tough, we will face many tests, and may at times not get the result we were looking for. To be successful, we need to learn from those defeats and rebound quickly.'
The Blazers will begin the season at Red Land on March 22 at 11 a.m. Their first home match will be against Wilson on March 27.