Colonial Heights Boys Volleyball brings veterans and depth to the court this year
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 own...you’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 April...it’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.