Mepham’s boys’ volleyball team made a leap from Conference V to IV and lost four key players to early season injury, yet here the Pirates are boasting a 12-2 mark on the cusp of a playoff berth. A veteran team loaded with juniors in their third varsity season helped steady the team as it weathered the injury storm on the way to a second-place finish in Conference II.
“With four starters not playing it was interesting to see how everyone stepped into a role,” coach Brenda Dolan said.
The road to a strong campaign actually began back in the spring when players began to gather for informal workouts and then later carried those efforts over to the beach season during the summer. “That definitely went a long way and this being the third year [for most of the players] the growth has only gotten better,” Dolan said. “The offense is much faster this year than last year. We’re running quicker plays.”
Mepham closed the regular season with a sweep of Elmont (25-17, 25-16, 25-20) last Thursday, getting back on the winning track after a loss to unbeaten East Meadow (25-15, 27-25, 27-25). Even in the defeat to the Jets, the Pirates showed just how far they have come since the start of the fall, leading in each of the three games.
Junior middle hitter David Gilroy has rebounded from an injury to become a dominating force at the net and is slowly working in a new facet of his game. Gilroy, primarily a right-hander, is now working in some moves with his left hand on the front line. “He’s an amazing volleyball player,” Dolan said. “He’s a good athlete, and I think his skills are still coming along. I think he’s still peaking.”
At times, junior setter Dominick Bove moves alongside Gilroy with junior Ben Geier then taking over the playmaking duties. “He’s got good hands,” Dolan said of Geier. “The guys are adjusting and it allows Dom [Bove] to play the frontline.”
Helping support Gilroy and Bove in the middle is John Alfano, a junior who’s made big strides on offense and brings plenty of power to that side of the net. Senior Erol Ozkumru has come off the bench to provide some big plays on the outside, while senior John Stackpole, a lefty at the net, contributes on the interior of the frontline.
“It’s been nice when one player is off and another steps up,” Dolan said. “It’ll be nice to see if we peak in the playoffs what will happen. We’re aiming to play our best.”
In his first season as the libero, junior Chris Lewis has made some sparkling plays to start Mepham possessions and slow down opposing offenses, and whenever the team needs a pick-me-up or motivation in practices or games, it’s usually junior Oren Zigdon, dubbed the heart and soul of the team by Dolan.