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Boys Volleyball Preview: SWR relies on core of track athletes

There’s no shortage of jumping during a volleyball match. So it bodes well for the Shoreham-Wading River boys volleyball team that the core of this year’s squad features players who also compete in track and field. 

From the high jump to the pole vault, the skills of one sport blend seamlessly into those required for volleyball. And it doesn’t hurt that the Wildcats’ coach, Paul Anderson, also happens to be the jumps coach for the track team.

“Volleyball is all jumping,” said Anderson, who has mostly coached at the JV level in the past during volleyball season. “So they’re really used to my plyometrics and my jump drills and all the stuff we do for vaulting and high jumping. It works out really good.”

Anderson coached the core of this year’s team when they came up as ninth-graders. With the team in need of a varsity coach this year, Anderson offered to step up so that the group of seniors could finish their careers on a high note.

“I know the kids real well,” Anderson said. “I know their work ethic. It’s been great.”

The Wildcats, who opened their season Sept. 3 with a 3-0 loss against East Hampton, return most of last year’s players and feature a team with plenty of experience playing together.

A pair of track athletes, seniors Liam Lane and Nick Maritato, will line as the team’s main hitters along with Chris Rottler. Most of the offense will run through setter Sean King, Anderson said.

Anchoring the team in the middle is Kelvin Ma, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker. The Wildcats will rely on Ma’s size to create havoc in the middle and generate some points through the defense.

“He gets his hands up and does a great job blocking,” Anderson said.

Junior Peter Mazzone will transition to libero this year and serve as the team’s passing and serving specialist, Anderson said.

Rahul Persad will also see time as a hitter this year.

“It’s a really good mix,” Anderson said.

The Wildcats hope to return to the postseason for the first time since 2009, when the team lost in the county championship.

“Volleyball used to be a power sport at Shoreham,” Anderson said.

With so many options for students these days, it’s been a challenge to maintain the level of interest in volleyball, a sport where only six kids play at a time. Still, the turnout has been strong so far this year. Anderson said 11 players are on the JV team under first-year coach John Lutjen, a 2011 Smithtown West graduate who played volleyball at Sacred Heart University for one year and at SUNY/New Paltz for three.

“He brings a lot of new drills, a lot of new insight into the game,” Anderson said. “He really helps us out a lot.”

Shoreham played at Westhampton on Thursday, picking up its first win, 3-1, before a week off. The season picks up in a hurry once the Wildcats return to the court Sept. 17 at home against Half Hollow Hills.

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