Hannigan is now in her second season as the boys coach, and the team is significantly more successful than in her first season. A 3-0 win over Freedom in their penultimate match of the season boosted the Patriots’ record to 6-3 in Bay Valley Athletic League play, 12-8 overall, putting them in prime position for a spot in the North Coast Section playoffs.
“Last year, once we were down in a game, we didn’t really come back,” junior setter Freddy Moore said. “It didn’t seem like we wanted to come back. This year, everyone has that drive to get that last point and really show that heart.”
Junior middle blocker Alex Filardo attributed the success to another factor – a factor that hasn’t been in play in past seasons: This year’s team has exuded a more upbeat, winning attitude. “Nobody really gets down on themselves or others like we’ve had in the past,” Fillardo said.
Moore and Fillardo are two of four team captains. Joining them are fellow opposite hitter and junior Brendan Kennealy and senior outside hitter Tyler Eelsing – one of only three seniors on the roster.
This year’s roster is nearly identical to last year’s. A season ago, Hannigan fielded a team loaded with sophomores bringing little or no volleyball experience to the court and expecting to take some lumps. This year’s squad boasts eight juniors, and the focus hasn’t been merely volleyball skill, but leadership.
“With our girls team, leaders are already in the team. Some of these girls are born as leaders,” Hannigan said. “With the boys, it’s more teaching them to be leaders. We’ve done a lot on John Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success,” where they have to tell me what each of the blocks is. We have a theme at every practice based off of that.”
The players also realize that while the leadership has improved, there’s still room to grow. They acknowledge that sometimes they play lackadaisically against opponents they should beat with relative ease.
Despite the roster’s three seniors and eight juniors, the Patriots are relatively inexperienced. Many of the players are new to the game, which shows on the court, even in wins. The team’s leaders acknowledge the need to fix those problems in order to make a successful NCS run.
“We just need to work on our communication when we’re out there on the court; sometimes we get a little quiet out there,” Kennealy said. “We also need to work on momentum. We get it, but sometimes lose it too easily. If we can do that, we’ll do pretty well in the playoffs.”