Josh Brussell is expecting a quick turnaround following a 2-12 2018 season.
With 10 returning East Hampton boys volleyball players, most of whom are seniors and have competed at the varsity level with their head coach since they were freshmen and eighth graders, he has the talent to do it.
“It makes it even better,” Brussell said. “Being their last year, they have the work ethic and the drive.”
Leading the team will be senior middle Clark Miller, who the coach said is a six-foot, five-inch hard-hitter.
“I feel like a lot of people are going to concentrate on him,” Brussell said. “Many will see him as a threat, but we have multiple weapons.”
Senior center Morgan Segelken, middle Cole Jowers, and outside Logan Gurney are also familiar faces. Junior outside Luc Campbell will round out the starters.
“They definitely know each other now, so they’ll make better decisions on the court,” Brussell said. “I want them to work more as a team, and I definitely think we’ll be playing the middle a whole lot more. I also think they have a lot of confidence this year.”
Six-foot, three-inch sophomore Declan Bistrian, who the coach said has tons of potential, and new junior Travis Wallace, who will fill in the middle, will also excite. The seniors have helped lead the way for them.
“They’ve been so supportive of the younger guys, with how they talk to each other, help each other out,” Brussell said. “It’s night and day to last year.”
The coach is looking for improvement, and forward to his guys to be tested. The Bonackers host Commack at 5 PM on Thursday, September 5, before traveling to Westchester for the Scarsdale Invitational Saturday, September 7. But they’ll also have to get through Westhampton, which they’ll face later in the season, on October 17.
Top Of The League
The Hurricanes have a preseason ranking of 13 out of 22 teams, but first among Division II schools.
“It’s a confidence boost, but it’s also a challenge,” head coach Jackie Reed said. “You have to stay there. Every game matters. You can’t fold just because you’re having a bad day. Everyone is trying to nip at your toes. And you can drop very, very quickly.”
Westhampton is poised to improve upon its 7-7 record from last season after losing three seniors, two starters, and returning five. The Hurricanes now boast six seniors coming from a team that made the playoff last year for the first time since 2005. Multiple players also boast club and travel team experience.
“Travel kids see a higher level at every tournament,” Reed said. “They’re playing against that level, and when you play against it, you rise to the occasion. It’s brought their skill and knowledge of volleyball way up.”
Reed is expecting big things from returning senior co-captain and libero Matt Lambert, who led the team last season and has competed at the varsity level for three.
“He organizes the team, runs the back row,” the coach said. “He’s a really hard worker and is determined to get things to perfection. That’s always nice to have. Especially when he’s the first person playing the ball.”
Senior Blake Busking, who saw a lot of playing time last season, some at center, will be replacing Ryan Haber, and has done a great job accepting his new role, according to his coach.
“He’s trying to connect with hit hitters on and off the court, trying to step up and be that leader we need in order to be successful,” she said. “It’s hard when you lose your starting center and you have all of your hitters back, but I’m really proud of him. If he keeps it up, I think he’s going to be just as good.”
Junior Ryan Barnett and sophomore Daniel Haber, standouts in the kill department, are joined on attack by senior Micah Terry. Terry, who has experience at middle blocker, may move around like many on the roster, including seniors Luke Farnan, Donovan Kerns, and Nate Bienia, depending on need. Westhampton hosts West Islip Thursday, September 5, at 4 PM in the season opener, and travels to Commack Friday, September 6, for another 4 PM matchup.
“This is a nice, cohesive group that trusts each other and supports each other in whatever role they’ll be in, and we need that connection, because sometimes that can kill the vibe of the entire season,” Reed said. “We’re looking to continue taking that next step in the postseason, and I don’t think that we’re going to get as far as we want to get if we rely on one person.”