Wow. Just one of many words that could be used to describe 2017 Varsity Volleyball season. It was filled with exciting matches, countless memories for the players and coaches, and a sensational playoff run. The Volleygaels recorded a regular season record of 11-5, including 3 straight wins to start off the season. The season was one to remember, with multiple milestones being reached and incredible matches thanks to the amazing support of the student section.
Sam Bianco, the team’s head coach, gained the 100th win of his career in a 3-0 sweep of Archbishop Curley during the season. It was a memorable moment that not many coaches can experience. “This is my 12th year as the varsity head coach, so I have been around awhile,” said Coach Bianco. Coach Bianco also talked about the success of the program and the great players he has coached over the years who have enabled him to earn so many wins. Coaching and teaching in the classroom are so closely related for Coach Bianco, and he says that learning on the field or during a sport is just as important as what happens in the classroom. Coach Bianco stated that “high school sports gives us the opportunity to accomplish things as part of a team. Working and being part of a team in necessary because after high school, you will have to do that anyway.”
Coach Bianco knew that the 100th win was possible during the season, but he didn’t think about it differently than any other game during the season. For Coach Bianco, he realized that winning and playing sports is fleeting and won’t last forever, so for him it is important that his players learn lessons that they can carry beyond high school. Coach Bianco finished up by saying, “Make everything in your life mean something! The lessons that we take with us from high school sports are so valuable.”
The team also witnessed outside hitter Will Targonski break the all-time record for career kills with 381! Memorable moments also include multiple comebacks, specifically senior night. The Volleygaels were playing Gilman and found themselves down 2-1 with the game on the line in the 4th set. They pulled away and ended up winning that set, sending the match to a 5th winner take all set. It was back and forth the whole set and MSJ survived several match points for Gilman. After barely staying alive, the Gaels pulled away and won 20-18, taking the match. Luke Williams had the game of his life: he was solid in the back row all night and had an incredible 5th set, which included a highlight play in which he had multiple game saving digs leading the team to victory.
The team entered the playoffs with a home match against St. Pauls where they had an all-around great effort from all the players and ended up sweeping the Crusaders 3-0. The 4th seeded Gaels advanced to the semifinals and took on the top seeded Loyola Dons in what was arguably the best match of the season. The team started especially slow and found themselves in a 2-0 hole and on the verge of the the season being over if they lost the next set. It was a close 3rd set the whole way, as the two teams were trading points back and forth. The Gaels ended up winning 25-23 off a missed serve from the Dons. This win electrified the team and they easily handled Loyola in the 4th set, which led to a huge 5th that would decide the match. MSJ was up early, but the Dons came storming back and tied it. The team saw themselves up 14-13 with a chance to win the game on the next point. Middle hitter Patrick Connolly went up and spiked it straight down on the Dons’ side, and the Volleygaels were going to the championship for the first time since 2006.
In the championship Mount Saint Joe squared off with Gilman yet again for a chance to win it all. The Gaels found themselves down 2-0 yet again and pulled away to win an exciting 3rd set keeping the season alive. The energy was through the roof as the student section filled up a whole section of the stands. In the 4th set, the Gaels fell apart early and couldn’t recover as Gilman ended up taking the set 25-15, resulting in a championship win for them. The team had an incredible run and solidified themselves as one of the best volleyball teams in recent memory. It was a great season, and the program can’t wait to try to redeem themselves next year.
Junior Ethan Hall also contributed to this article by interviewing Head Coach Sam Bianco.