Colo­nial Heights Boys Vol­ley­ball brings vet­er­ans and depth to the court this year

The Progress-Index Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Kelsey Re­ichen­berg Staff Writer

COLO­NIAL HEIGHTS It’s no se­cret that the Colo­nial Heights High School boys vol­ley­ball team has had a suc­cess­ful few years, and this year hasn’t been any dif­fer­ent.

Led by a strong crop of se­nior tal­ent, the team cur­rently pos­sesses an 8-3 record go­ing into Tues­day’s home match against Peters­burg.

Colo­nials head coach Mark Lee at­tributes this sea­son’s suc­cess to a num­ber of fac­tors, one of which be­ing the im­prove­ment he’s wit­nessed in sev­eral of his start­ing play­ers since last sea­son, es­pe­cially in ju­nior mid­dle hit­ter Ian Bier­mann.

“Ian has im­proved a lot,” Lee said. “We need to start get­ting him more sets to get him more part of the of­fense; I think it would cre­ate more op­por­tu­ni­ties for other play­ers, too.

“I don’t think we’ve set him up enough, and that kind of lim­its our of­fense,” Lee added. “When we do set him, es­pe­cially back row and front row for that mat­ter - he does very well.

Lee noted that when it comes to block­ing, Bier­mann is “a mon­ster.”

“He’s there ev­ery time,” Lee said. “He does very, very well.”

Lee has also no­ticed im­prove­ment in other key play­ers in­clud­ing Haden Crow­der, Jonathan Sta­ley and Ben Bur­chard.

“Haden is just awe­some. He’s ac­tu­ally bet­ter than he was last year. He does a great job,” Lee said. “I’ve got peo­ple like Ben who I put in front row, he does a very good job, he’s im­proved since last year.

“Jonathan is prob­a­bly an un­der­sized player for front row, but he hangs right in there, very good blocker, hits the ball well, ex­cel­lent de­fender,” Lee said. “[He] reads the ball very well, moves around and cov­ers well.”

Lee also cred­its se­nior Grayson An­drews for be­ing an ex­cel­lent set­ter and over­all a “very smart player” on the court.

An­other fac­tor that has played a vi­tal role in the team’s suc­cess is its depth. While nearly all of the team’s starters are highly trained, ex­pe­ri­enced se­niors, Lee feels con­fi­dent in plac­ing more than one player in each po­si­tion on the court, in­clud­ing less ex­pe­ri­enced un­der­class­men.

“The depth is fan­tas­tic,” Lee said. “Ev­ery po­si­tion, I can put in at least one or two play­ers, like I did [against Atlee], in the third and fourth set.”

Lee started putting in dif­fer­ent play­ers to do dif­fer­ent things.

“And I re­ally don’t miss much,” he said. “I can put in Ben, I can put in John [Temu], I can put in Aaron [Ezell] front row, and they do a re­ally good job...our depth is very good .... I’ve got peo­ple in the back row, I’ve got Noah [Selfe], who is a very good front row player.”

Lee will also come across matches that en­able him to put in the less ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers and new­com­ers so that they can get play­ing time on the court.

“I’ll let them play the en­tire set; that way they get the ex­pe­ri­ence, they know what to do,” Lee said. “They face the drama of los­ing and just get­ting some game ex­pe­ri­ence.”

In ad­di­tion to their un­de­ni­able depth, a spike in con­fi­dence has also fac­tored into the team’s suc­cess.

Lee notes that sev­eral of his play­ers, in­clud­ing main starter Kai Hey­det, have gained more con­fi­dence on the court, lead­ing to bet­ter plays.

“Kai’s im­proved tremen­dously. I mean last year, he was as good a player, but he just let him­self get beat up too much by him­self, men­tally,” Lee said. “This year he’s a lot more con­trolled, a lot more con­fi­dent, and he’s emerged as one of our re­ally, re­ally good hit­ters. He’s re­ally car­ried the team a lot of times. Be­tween him and Haden, they’re awe­some to­gether.”

Lee be­lieves that last year, the team was too ner­vous, and the play­ers too fre­quently sec­ond guessed them­selves. And while there has been im­prove­ment, they still have a ways to go.

“I think some of that [ner­vous­ness] was ev­i­dent [in the Colo­nials’ 3-1 loss to Atlee]. A lot of balls we had dropped, we’re look­ing at each other for them to play the ball, in­stead of tak­ing the ball our­selves,” Lee said. “We al­ways tell them they’ve got to be con­fi­dent of course on their’ve got to re­lax and hit the ball. Just play within your­self and do what you can do, and don’t try to do things that you can’t do yet.”

If one of his play­ers has an easy hit, Lee said, then it’s a mat­ter of: “go ahead and hit it.”

“If it’s a tight set, don’t hit it, try to roll the ball, dink the ball, what­ever you’ve got to do,” he said. “We try to build them up emo­tion­ally, but… we do it in a fun way. We get af­ter each other. We tell them, ‘You are a good hit­ter, you just gotta re­lax and do it. You’ve got to think, but you can’t over­think.’”

Sev­eral of the Colo­nials’ team­mates con­tinue to play com­pet­i­tively dur­ing off-sea­son. Lee be­lieves that has played a ma­jor role in the team’s suc­cess in the fall.

“I think one thing that helped me this year is I had at least seven play­ers play­ing in Rich­mond,” Lee said, “and the ex­pe­ri­ence they got there… they’ll go in Novem­ber and start play­ing, and they’ll play in tour­na­ments Jan­uary through’s very, very ben­e­fi­cial.”

Through­out the sea­son, Lee main­tains the men­tal­ity that it’s not as much about if the Colo­nials win a game, but more about how they won that game, and he tries to in­still that thought process in his play­ers. When play­ing strong teams like Monacan and Ma­toaca, he stresses that he wants them to win be­cause they truly worked hard and beat those teams, and not be­cause the other team did poorly and beat them­selves.

“When we have a good match, like when we played against Mono­can the sec­ond time - and they had im­proved greatly and were a much bet­ter team - we beat them,” Lee said, “not be­cause they were bad, but be­cause we beat them.

“Ma­toaca did the same thing. They were very good, but we beat them, not them beat­ing them­selves,” he said. “And we re­ally try to stress that point that that’s what you want in a game: you want to take con­trol. You want to make the hits, not just let them play them­selves.”


Colo­nial Heights’ Haden Crow­der goes for the kill.


Colo­nial Heights’ Ian Bier­mann at­tempts to get a hand on the ball at the net against an Atlee player.


Prince Ge­orge County’s Grace Peter­son on the at­tack in the Roy­als’ Tues­day match at Thomas Dale. The Roy­als bounced back from their 3-0 loss to the Knights with Thurs­day’s 3-1 win over Din­wid­die (25-21,19-25, 25-23, 25-23) to im­prove to 5-5. Peter­son against the Gen­er­als had 2 aces, 6 kills, 7 digs and 2 blocks. Jil­lian Mc­Coy had 2 aces, 12 kills and 2 blocks. Erin Beaver had 31 as­sists, 2 aces, 3 kills, 3 digs and 2 blocks. Mariah Camp­bell had 3 kills and 14 digs.


Colo­nial Heights Field Hockey’s Mary Martino (#9) watches her ball hit the back of the net for the goal in her Colo­nials’ Mon­day home match ver­sus Hopewell. The Colo­nials this week im­proved to 6-4 off of vic­to­ries over Hopewell (8-0) and Thomas Dale (2-1) with Tamyah Cole­man and Aubrey Rowe each scor­ing against the Knights and Rowe (2), Cole­man (2), Anna Cars­ley, Martino and Kar­lee Row­land all scor­ing against the Blue Dev­ils.


Ma­toaca’s Seth Cun­ning­ham re­ceives the ball in the War­riors’ Tues­day match at Peters­burg. The War­riors split the week with a 3-0 win over the Wave and a hard-fought 3-1 loss to Thomas Dale (25-23, 11-25, 23-25, 23-25). For the War­riors, Ben Childers had 12 kills, 3 blocks and 2 Aces, Bryson Long 7 kills, Berg Tun­nell 7 kills, 2 as­sists and 1 block, and Seth Cun­ning­ham 23 as­sists. The War­riors are now 6-5.

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