The 2018 season has come and gone for the Mount Saint Joseph Volleyball team. The team had hopes of getting back to the championship for a second year in a row. As many recall, the Gaels lost to the Gilman Hounds last year in the championship game. Gilman won with a score of three sets to one, and the Gaels were out for revenge this season.
The Gaels started off with an outstanding record of five and one. The wins include sweeps over Curley, Boys Latin, Spalding, and Saint Pauls. The team also won a hard fought battle against a new-look John Carroll that is much better than in recent years. The Gaels single loss in the first six games came against rival Calvert Hall. It was the first game of the season and a battle the whole way. The Cardinals eventually prevailed, but the Gaels proved they could hang with a historically great team.
This year is significantly different for MSJ than recent years because of the youth on the team. The Gaels have 5 seniors, 4 juniors, and 5 sophomores. That is something Head Coach Sam Bianco has never had before. Coach Bianco also attributed the team’s loss to Calvert Hall partly because of the youth and inexperience. Three out of the five sophomores are starters, and playing at the varsity level is something completely different for them. Coach Bianco likes to say that JV volleyball is for learning, while varsity is for competing. That is an excellent way to put it as most, if not all, freshman that tryout have never played the sport before. Everything from the tempo, intensity, and skill level is different on varsity.
The team was led by 5 seniors. Setter Brennan Turner, Middle Hitter Bennett Carr, Libero Bennett Kramer, Defensive Specialist Chip Quinn, and Right Side Hitter Ray Kovacsics. This group has been playing together for four years now and provided great wisdom, skill, and leadership to the team. The juniors include Outside Hitter Kyle Burke, Middle Hitter Gabe Rupert, Setter John Romiti, and Defensive Specialist Jason Kalinock. This is also a great group that brought some new faces to the team, as Kyle Burke was the only one on Varsity last year. The team has a group of very talented sophomores. This includes Defensive Specialist Deon Abellana, Libero Lucas Plumey, Outside Hitter Colin Chalk, Outside Hitter Reece Tydings, and Middle Hitter Sean Carr. Colin unfortunately had surgery on his foot before the season started and was out for the whole year, but they are all talented players that have bright futures in the program.
The second half of the season saw the Gaels produce sweeps against the likes of Curley, St. Pauls, and Spalding. The team also saw exciting wins against John Carroll and Boys Latin. The team experienced hard fought losses to MIAA Volleyball powerhouses Loyola, Gilman, and Calvert Hall, but senior night was an exception. You couldn’t ask for a better setting for a senior night game: it was a Friday, and a big student section fueled the intensity. The Gaels faced off against Gilman for the last time, and the two teams traded games back and forth which saw the match proceed into a decisive fifth set. The Volleygaels battled hard and ended up defeating the reigning champs, getting revenge from last year’s title game.
Heading into the playoffs as the fourth seed, the Gaels had a dominant showing against fifth seeded John Carroll and swept the Patriots to advance to the semi-finals in a highly anticipated match against Loyola. Unfortunately for the Gaels, they were swept in three competitive games that were decided by a couple of points each time. The team had an excellent year and is poised to be a contender for years coming, as the depth on the roster is unmatched by any other teams in the league. We thank the seniors for their hard work and excellent careers, and wish the team good luck as they begin their offseason.