During the second year of its return to competition, the Hartley boys’ volleyball team has balanced two areas of focus.
The Hawks have six players who gained experience in 2021 when they fielded for the first time since the mid-1990s, giving them a foundation for improvement after winning a postseason game and a year ago with 6: 13 had finished.
In addition, a growing group of younger players ensures anticipation for the future.
“Most (the returnees) were freshmen last year, so we’re all pretty new to the sport,” senior libero Isaiah Gessese said. “We got better every day in training. We’ve played against teams that we know are (more) established, but we’re just trying to get better as a team and trying to help those that will be in the program over the next few years.
The Hawks were 6-12 overall after losing to Olentangy Berlin 25-11 25-21 25-16 on May 11 and finished 0-6 in the CCL. They beat Newark on May 10 25:18, 25:18, 28:26.
The Division II East Region tournament draw was held on May 15, with the postseason scheduled to begin on May 20.
Gessese is one of four seniors alongside Kendall Day (defensive specialist), Tyler Fields (right hitter) and Daniel Mattox (center hitter).
Fields and Mattox are new to the range.
One of the biggest changes since last spring, according to coach Doug Franz, is that the Hawks have been able to build more complex sets and run their offense faster.
“It’s just a good group of kids and I love being with them,” said Franz. “They work hard and they get better every time and that’s our goal, every time we’re on the pitch, to get better.
“I was just talking to our eighth graders. We have some first and second graders this year, but we also have about eight to nine eighth graders who will be freshers next year. We have 13 this year so we have numbers and things are growing and getting better.”
Gessese and Day have led a defense unit that includes sophomore Andrew Bassetti.
Gessese also played for the Hartley boys’ football program and plans to visit Akron where he is considering playing club football.
“(Libero) is a very important position within the team, so if I play well, we play well,” said Gessese. “I really enjoy the position.
“We’re just all growing together, so we’re pretty close and we’ve known each other before. So as soon as we get on the pitch, we bond more mentally. We have a lot of young people who are in their second year or freshman year and we teach them and we do exercises and we let them find out. If they do something wrong, we teach them and correct them.”
•Reynoldsburg Coach Matt Bailey has been pleased with the growth he’s seen in his program this spring.
After a season in which the Raiders lost in the first round of the Division I East Region tournament and finished 4-21, they went 3-19 overall before ending the regular season on May 14 against Briggs.
“Our inexperience is showing, but what I’ve said to the lads is a few more effort games going our way, a few fewer errors and we could be (at about .500),” said Bailey, whose roster is 2-12 in the OCC Ohio Division. “We’re very competitive in a lot of our games and a lot of breaks haven’t gone our way. We are quite a young team and I see improvements every day.”
Reynoldsburg defeated Westerville Central on April 26 25-17, 25-22, 25-21 for their second win in three games and fell just short on April 28 when they went 6-25, 25-14, 25-19 , 24-26 lost , 15-11 to Delaware.
In 20 matches, senior outside hitter Desmond Barber led with 89 kills, and junior Firaole Kebede (middle hitter/opposite hitter) had 69 kills as the #2 offensive option.
Sophomore outside hitter Santosh Chuwan was second with 184 serves behind Barber (200), while junior setter Pradip Khatiwoda had 235 assists.
Sophomores Alexander Begeny (outside hitter/middle hitter) and Anthony Myers (outside hitter/opposite hitter) also played offensively, according to Bailey.
“Because our program is as young as we are, we’re moving in the right direction where hopefully in a few years we can be fighting for league titles and winning half our games,” Bailey said. “When they’re in it mentally, the skills are there and it’s everyone’s game.”