The John F. Kennedy High School Cougars boys’ volleyball team is gearing up for the season, and senior Tyler Anderson, of Bellmore, is ready to step in to his position as captain.
The Cougars made it to the state Division II final last year, but fell short in the fifth set against Eden High School. After coming so close to a title, team members said they want to exceed last year’s performance.
“We have high expectations and lofty goals this season,” said Coach Dennis Ringel. “Our players are hardworking, energetic, smart. Everyone is stepping up.”
Last year was a big season for the team, and Anderson. They ended it 18-4, and Anderson proved his worth with 254 kills, 48 blocks and 29 aces.
“That was the hardest we’ve played,” said Anderson, 17. “We were one set away from winning the state championship, which was a huge bummer. It feels incomplete. To win state would be amazing.”
This year’s competition starts on Sept. 13 for the Cougars, when they will face Great Neck North. While Anderson and his teammates are aiming high, the new captain wants to take things “one step at a time.”
“First we have to make the playoffs, then make county, which is a big goal besides state,” Anderson said. “This year would be the fourth year in a row for winning county.”
To achieve that goal, Ringel and Anderson try to maintain a team balance. There is no primary focus on one player. Instead, the team works together to share feedback and establish strong support in all corners of the court.
“There can’t be one person leading the team,” said Anderson. “You have to have everyone involved. We practice every day, working hard to improve from the start of the season.”
“Tyler is the lead piece, but everyone is important,” Ringel said. “It’s not Tyler and the Cougars, it’s the Cougars with Tyler as captain.”
The rest of the team shares the enthusiasm. They appreciate Anderson’s leadership. “He brings us all together,” said Hunter Moran, an outside hitter. “After last year, when we lost in the state finals, we’re determined to come back.”
“He’s a great leader to aspire to,” added Justin Steinberg, who plays right side.
Ringel said he hoped that their aspiration would bring the best out of all the players. “When you see your best player give everything to the competition, you want to do that, too,” he said. “He always keeps going and keeps striving.”
Anderson looks to his older brother, Gary, who was a right-side hitter for the Cougars when they won the state championship in 2012, for inspiration. Tyler, then 11, attended all of his brother’s games. “When I play, I take all of my energy and everything I’m dealing with and get it out of the way,” he said. “It’s my time to do what I do best, and from there, I do what I can to succeed.”
Volleyball is not all that’s on the senior’s mind. Anderson missed out on the team’s Saturday practice in order to visit Juniata College in Pennsylvania. After leaving Kennedy, he hopes to continue playing volleyball.