Winning two early-season tournaments and piling up wins over the course of the season a year ago, the St. John Fisher (SJF) sixth-grade volleyball team had a successful campaign.
But, heading into their seventh-grade season, the Falcons wanted to clean up one major issue: staying calm whenever the momentum shifted.
The early results are quite positive.
With Mt. Greenwood making a late push in both sets, SJF held off the charge, winning 25-21, 25-17 on March 16 to win the championship of the St. Rita Seventh-Grade Volleyball Tournament.
“That’s the big thing. Whenever we were down, it was a lot of getting in your own head,” said SJF Coach Kevin Lyons. “We were beating ourselves. Today, we wanted to keep it relaxed, call a timeout if we needed and chill out. We were good to go and got back out there.”
Middle hitters Tommy Sloyan (6 kills, 3 aces) and Aidan Peloquin (6 kills, 3 aces) were twin towers up front for the Falcons to lead the offense. Luke Spatz and Will Murnane handled setting duties.
Sloyan and Peloquin have both played as outside hitters in the past.
“That’s been our big move. We play them in the middle because we know they’ll get more swings there,” Lyons said. “They’re quick, fast and fundamentally sound enough to get every ball that goes up there.”
Mt. Greenwood slashed away at a 10-point deficit in the opening set, drawing to within 4 at 21-17. Sloyan stopped the run with a huge kill in the middle. JJ McNicholas added an ace, and following a Mt. Greenwood error, Sloyan blasted the set-winner for the Falcons.
Holding off another Eagles charge in the second set, Peloquin stepped up with 2 late kills. Jack Perry added a kill and a block as SJF closed on an 8-4 run for the championship.
Building off that sixth-grade season, it was a great start for the Falcons as seventh-graders.
“We had good success last year and ended up losing in the semifinals in both our leagues,” Lyons said. “We started off hot and didn’t end the way we wanted. It’s nice to start off with a win like this.”
The Falcons roster includes Marty Riley, Perry, Owen Winters (kill, block), Spatz, Peloquin, McNicholas, Sloyan and Murnane.
Despite the loss for Mt. Greenwood, there were plenty of positives to build on. Coach Anne Eastman said she wants to see the Eagles ramp up their defensive play in the coming weeks.
“We learned a new offense, and they’ve got that down,” Eastman said. “We have to build on defense now and defending a tough attack. In seventh grade, boys are really starting to hit. We need to stay low and play defense.”
Connor O’Brian (4 kills) and Billy Jacobsen (2 kills) led the Eagles, with Tommy Moore and Ethan Kuziela (2 kills) handling setting duties. Jack Meador and Vinny Ward added a kill each.
“It’s a great start to the year, a lot of positives,” Eastman said. “We blocked some at the net, and we were hitting a lot. We’re big on teaching the game. We’re going to learn the game, and all that matters is how we finish the year.”
The Mt. Greenwood roster includes Jacobsen, O’Brien, Moore, Dylan McKeon, Kuziela, Lucas Olszewski, Ward, T.J. McNichols and Meador. Ron Eastman, James Kuziela and Kelsey Meador are the assistant coaches.