With a 29-6-1 record and a regional championship in their rearview mirror, the 2015 OTHS boys volleyball team face this spring’s campaign with a decidedly different line-up and the challenge of developing a team concept that will translate into victories on the court.
O’Fallon High coach Katelyn Hagarty is confident this year’s team will evolve into a competitive unit, but currently the Panther spikers are taking advantage of pre-season practice time to put the pieces together.
“We’re in the process of figuring out line-ups and rotations,” Hagarty said. “We will have to wait and see what works and what doesn’t. We have a group of good players who have already shown a willingness to work together. It’s just a matter of gaining confidence in each other.”
Outside hitter Alex Belongy, a senior, is the only returning starter, and Hagarty expects big things from her veteran spiker. A formidable hitter and scorer on the front line, Belongy will spearhead the Panther attack.
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He will team with outside hitter Luke Meidel as O’Fallon’s scoring tandem with senior Parker Roustio, a part-time starter last year, manning the blocker position. Senior Austin Minor and junior Mike Hovick will patrol the middle-hitter spots. Hagarty expects to rotate Lucas Hackmann and Jon Worthing at the setter slot with sophomore Ryan Nelson playing libero.
“Belongy’s leadership and experience will give us a solid base on which to build our offensive attack,” Hagarty said. “Luke (Meidel) should give us a consistent complement to Alex. He is an excellent passer and fits well into the team concept that we are trying to develop.”
Hackmann, a transfer from Metro East Lutheran, brings a competitive edge to the Panthers, and Worthing, according to Hagarty, has worked hard in the off-season, stepping up his level of play. Several spikers who will be counted on this season are moving up from last year’s junior varsity squad, which finished the 2014 season with a 16-1 record.
“With new varsity players and two new setters at the varsity level, timing is a key,” Hagarty said. “The boys are working very hard at developing that rapport.”
The preseason work will be displayed initially at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, when the OTHS spikers hold their annual Blue/Gold scrimmage in the Panther Dome.
Competition begins in earnest for the Panthers on Monday, March 30, when they host Waterloo Gibault.
In Southwestern Conference play, Edwardsville, Belleville East and Belleville West will be the teams the Panthers will have to defeat to climb to the top of the league standings.
Despite the new faces and new positions, Hagarty sees her squad in the mix with the development of the right team chemistry.