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Calhoun enters playoffs as top seed

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Sixteen months after winning 14 matches and reaching the Nassau Class A boys’ volleyball quarterfinals, Calhoun returned primarily its same lineup and picked up where it left off in terms of level of play and chemistry.

“Everything is going the way we’ve hoped so far,” coach Ryan Pastuch said after the Colts clinched the Conference 2A title with a 25-17, 25-15, 25-15 victory over Jericho on April 12. “What’s really helped is a lot of kids played club volleyball during the offseason and they’re friends off the court,” he added. “Our chemistry has been there from the start.”

Calhoun, which lost just one starter from 2019, finished the regular season with a 10-1 record and is the No. 1 seed in the Class A playoffs. Bethpage and Lawrence figure to pose the biggest threats to the Colts in their quest for the first county championship in program history.

“Bethpage and Lawrence were our biggest matches of the regular season and I was happily surprised we were able to beat them both in three sets,” said Pastuch, who noted the Bethpage match was decided by the slimmest of margins with each set decided by three or two points.

Senior captains Owen Rose, Pat Sanchez, Rob Baguiao and Michael Fazio set the tone for the Colts, who could host the county title match on April 27 should they advance that far.

Rose, headed to Penn State to play at the D1 level, is an All-County hitter doing most of his damage from the outside after playing primarily in the middle last season. He leads Nassau County in kills and ranks among the top five in service aces. “He’s 6-foot-7 and he not only hits hard but can place the ball anywhere on the court,” Pastuch said of the third-year starter. “We wanted to get him the ball more so we moved him outside.”

Sanchez, a prolific setter with outstanding hitting ability, makes the offense tick, the coach noted. A four-year starter, he ranks third in the county in assists and fifth in kills. “There’s nothing he doesn’t do well,” Pastuch said. “He’s our best passer who can also hit and plays in the back row.” Sophomore Ryan Pucella is the other setter in the 6-2 scheme and thriving in his second varsity season.

Baguiao, the libero, will do whatever it takes to keep the ball in play, Pastuch said, and is no stranger to diving head-first. His 70 digs leads the county. “Rob’s our defensive anchor who sacrifices his body all over the court,” said Pastuch, who added Fazio is a defensive specialist who brings energy and keeps the team focused.

Junior outside/middle hitter Brian Chin is a returning starter who got a late start to the season but is rounding into form in time for the playoffs, while junior middle hitter Chris Zaveckas leads Calhoun in blocks in just his second season playing the sport and first at the varsity level.