BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Coming off winning back-to-back Section II Division I boys’ volleyball championships, the 2017 version of Shenendehowa head coach John Coletta’s program might be its best yet.
“This group is special,” Coletta said after his team’s 25-9, 25-14, 25-17 season-opening win Wednesday against Saratoga Springs. “They’ve been working together for the last few years during the school year and the offseason, and they have high goals. Sectionals is the first goal, but what comes after that is what we’re striving for this year.”
In past seasons, Shenendehowa’s strength has largely come from its depth and ability to mix and match its players to take advantage of their individual skills. This year, though, the Plainsmen are likely to rely on a rotation of seven seniors that has spent the past three years playing together both during the club and school seasons.
“We’ve meshed through the offseason, playing club,” Shenendehowa senior Dylan Urbanski said. “That’s put us in a good spot for this year.”
“We’ve been good friends for a while,” Shenendehowa senior JB Barringer said. “We’re comfortable with each other.”
Besides Barringer and Urbanski, Shenendehowa used seniors Spencer Anderson, Cameron Severance, John Kean, Jack Normandin and Brendan Spulnick for the first two sets of Wednesday’s match. The group dominated against the Blue Streaks, regularly working the ball to Spulnick, who had nine kills.
“There’s a lot more improvement for us to make,” Spulnick said. “But our chemistry is already there. That’s good for us.”
Normandin added four kills, while Kean had three.
“It was a solid start, but we have to get better from here,” Barringer said. “We made mistakes.”
Anderson, Spulnick and Urbanski — who had 22 assists — were regular starters last season for Shenendehowa, which saw its 2016 campaign end in regionals after the program made it to the state final four in 2015. While the Plainsmen relied on seven seniors through Wednesday’s first two sets, Urbanski said the players making up the rest of the
18-deep Shenendehowa roster each have the talent to break into the team’s lineup at any point.
“They could take anyone’s spot,” Urbanski said. “It’s not a given for us.”
What’s set, though, is where the Plainsmen envision their 2017 season going.
“The big goal for us is a state championship,” Urbanski said. “That’s where we want to be, that’s what we’re working toward. Every point, every play is a step closer to that.”
“But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” Coletta said. “We need to get to sectionals first to take care of business.”
Shenendehowa heeded its coach Wednesday, producing a workmanlike win highlighted with a few emphatic kills from Spulnick. There are tougher tests ahead this season for the Plainsmen, but the win came in the first match of a season Shenendehowa wants to makes its longest — and best — in program history.
“This was a good start,” Coletta said.