The 2016 boys volleyball season was truly one to remember for the Belleville West Maroons.
Led by four-year starter and four-time all-Southwestern Conference player Nick Stevenson, the Maroons finished 23-15-1, won a regional title and upset O’Fallon before losing a three-set marathon to Lincoln-Way West in the sectional final.
In 2017, veteran Maroons coach Austin Betz returns a few key players from that team. But finding someone to take over the spot held by Stevenson will be difficult.
“It’s a whole knew look without Nick (Stevenson). We played at the Joliet West Tournament over the weekend and outside hitters Tony (Brooks) and Trevor (Pentland) did an excellent job of picking up some of the scoring,” Betz said. “But we’re going to have to get more guys involved in our offense.”
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“And I think we’re going to have to be a better defensive team, because, at least right now, we don’t have the player who can terminate the points like Nick did.”
With Stevenson graduated and playing without two starters because of academic issues, the Maroons finished 1-4 at the Joliet West Tournament.
The finish, although not what Betz would like, wasn’t far off the 2-3 finish West had a year ago.
“I think we learned a lot about ourselves this weekend and while we went 1-4, we saw some positives and things that we can build upon,” Betz said. “It’s good to play a lot of matches early, and it,s good to play some different teams that we wouldn’t normally play during the regular season.”
Neff to lead the Maroons offense
Senior Tim Neff is the Maroons top offensive player returning. Neff had 113 kills a year ago and served as an option for the Maroons.
“Tim will be in the middle for us, and he had a real good season a year ago,” Bets said. “He also had 11 blocks this weekend in Joliet and in five matches that’s pretty good.”
Betz also has high hopes for junior libero Blake Grosse, who will be counted on to add leadership.
Senior Connor Martin’s emergence has allowed athletic senior Sharron Clay to be moved out as a right side hitter.
Clay can also be setter, but Betz has two other capable setters in Aidan Mundloch and Jalen Reeves to use as backups.
Junior Tony Brooks is another athlete Betz hopes to utilize on the outside, while senior middle hitter Devin Hunt (6-3) and Jordan Douglas (defensive specialist) along with sophomore Shawn Magac (6-2) will also play key roles.