BELLEVILLE — The Belleville West Maroons start the 2014 volleyball season with a team deep in experience and one that coach Austin Betz hopes will contend for an upper tier finish in the Southwestern Conference.
Despite having just two weeks of practice, Betz said on Monday that his squad needs to play a match.
"Especially with the varsity group, we've got a lot of guys who are back from last year and we've got players who have moved up from the junior-varsity team. It is getting to the point in practice now to where we need to play a match and see where we are,'' Betz said.
"You get to the point in preseason to where you aren't going to accomplish much until you play a match and see what you need to work on. We're at that point right now.''
West, which finished 14-15 a year ago, opens its season on Friday at the Joliet West Tournament. West will play five matches in two days, giving Betz the opportunity to get a good look at his squad.
One person Betz probably won't see in action this weekend is senior libero Vishal Patel who is sidelined for medical reasons.
If Patel is out, Betz could use sophomore Nick Stevenson at libero. Stevenson was one of the top libero's in the area last season as a freshman.
But now stronger and taller (6-0), Stevenson has been impressive as an outside hitter.
"Vishal has looked good and I'd like to use him at libero. But we don't know when he'll be able to play. But we have some options,'' Betz said. "We've got (Trevor) Juenger back as our setter and we've got some other guys back at key spots who have a lot of experience.''
The Maroons' strength appears to be on the outside, where gifted three-sport athlete Cade Dibadj (6-4) should be one of the best in the SWC. Junior Luke Glaeser (6-0) and Stevenson are others with good jumping ability and power.
"All three of those guys are very good players. I feel very good about our outside attack,'' Betz said.
Seniors Casey Odum (6-3) and Camron Vielweber (6-3) along with junior Nick Givens (6-5) are competing for two spots as middle hitters.
Juenger returns as the Maroons' starting setter for the second straight season.
"Trevor did a good job for us a year ago and we're looking for more of the same this season,'' Betz said. "He's got good hands and his defense has improved. He's a very quiet kid and I'd like for him to become more of a leader.
"His first year of playing volleyball was when he was a freshman and so he's still fairly new to the sport. Plus, the setting position is not an easy one to pick up. He's done a good job.''
Junior Ben Harsin (6-1) will see playing time as a rightside hitter, while junior Justin Buettner (6-2) will also play on the perimeter as an outside hitter.