New-look Shenendehowa boys’ volleyball team expects to contend

Donovan Suguitan is shown during a Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016 Shenendehowa volleyball practice. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)Donovan Suguitan is shown during a Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016 Shenendehowa volleyball practice. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

BY MICHAEL KELLY
Gazette Sportswriter

CLIFTON PARK — The starting lineup will have a much different look this season for the Shenendehowa boys’ volleyball team.

That goes, perhaps, for each match.

“That’s the fun part about this year,” Shenendehowa head coach John Coletta said. “I think we could have a different lineup every game and be extremely competitive. I wouldn’t be surprised if over the course of the season our lineup changes and evolves.”

After graduating several key pieces from last year’s Section II Division I title-winning squad, the Plainsmen will rely on strength in numbers as they attempt to defend their championship.

Dylan Urbanski bumps a ball during a Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016 Shenendehowa volleyball practice. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

Dylan Urbanski bumps a ball during a Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016 Shenendehowa volleyball practice. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

“We want to find our own identity,” said senior Donovan Suguitan, one of Shenendehowa’s key returning players. “But we’re [still] shooting to get to sectional finals, go to regionals and hopefully make it back to states again.”

Shenendehowa achieved all three of those goals last season, as the Plainsmen dethroned a Bethlehem program which had defeated them in the previous four area title games. A busy offseason playing together kept the Plainsmen sharp and helped them start their preseason operating at a high level.

“That’s what’s allowed us to get right into it,” senior Parker Hill said. “We’re already hitting harder, getting our passes up. There’s been no rustiness.”

“We’re starting to get into our groove,” Suguitan said.

The season starts fast, too, for Shenendehowa. The Plainsmen’s first Suburban Council matchup of the season comes Sept. 2 when it plays host to Bethlehem, a squad that defeated Shenendehowa twice during the 2015 regular season.

Brendan Spulnick spikes a ball over the net during a Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016 Shenendehowa volleyball practice. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

Brendan Spulnick spikes a ball over the net during a Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016 Shenendehowa volleyball practice. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

“That’s exciting for us to have Bethlehem first and we’re definitely pumped up for it,” Suguitan said. “We’ll be ready.”

In the weeks before that match, Shenendehowa has two main goals: working in its call-ups from last year’s junior varsity squad and making sure its defense is sound. The Plainsmen will lean on their veterans to help bring along their rookies and hold themselves accountable in terms of defensive discipline.

“We’re expecting a lot out of them,” Coletta said of his seniors and juniors with past varsity experience.

While making sure they are ready for that opening match is important, the Plainsmen also know they cannot accomplish any of their major goals in early September. Laying the foundation for a strong finish is what’s most critical.

“We want to peak at the right time,” Coletta said.

About the Author

Michael Kelly
Michael Kelly is a sports reporter for Your Clifton Park and Your Niskayuna, weekly print publications of The Daily Gazette. Kelly grew up in Clifton Park and graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 2006. He is also a 2010 graduate of the Stony Brook University School of Journalism. Kelly's work has been honored by the New York News Publishers Association, the New York State Associated Press Association, and the Associated Press Sports Editors. His work has previously been featured in The (Amsterdam) Recorder, The Saratogian, and Albany Times Union.