Millis Spikers Aiming for Successful Tourney Run

By Ken Hamwey Staff Sports Writer
Millis boys volleyball has consistently seen tourney play, so Coach Guinan’s goals of winning the conference title, sectional champs, heading to the state finals and winning the state championship are attainable.
Issue Date: 
June, 2017
Article Body: 

The Millis boys’ volleyball team personifies consistency.
Jay Guinan has coached the squad for the last 11 years, and during that stretch, the Mohawks have qualified for tournament play nine times. Last year’s team is a typical example of how capable and steady Millis has been — it posted an 18-2 overall record, won the Western Alliance championship, then bowed out in the playoff quarterfinals to Medfield.
Boys’ volleyball is the only team at Millis that competes in Division 1, facing the likes of Xaverian, Catholic Memorial, St. John’s (Shrewsbury), St. John’s Prep of Danvers, Milford, Medfield and BC High. Excelling in that kind of atmosphere requires skill, determination and team unity, and it’s those characteristics that Guinan believes will propel his Mohawks to another solid tournament run. So far, Millis has a 15-1 record and is leading the Western Alliance standings.
“This year’s group has great team chemistry,’’ Guinan said. “The boys are very coachable and a joy to work with. Our other strengths are our size, a solid work ethic, experience, talent and technique. Two areas of concern, however, are depth and emotional stability. We’re a small school, and our numbers are usually limited. We have only nine varsity players. Emotional stability translates to handling pressure situations. It’s a long season, and then the playoffs arrive. What’s important is how we deal with constant pressure.’’
Carter Burruss, a senior left-side hitter, was an honorable mention all-star in the conference last year and Guinan rates him as one of the best players in the area. He’s had colleges recruiting him. Burruss is 6-2 and at Local Town Pages deadline he led the Mohawks in kills with 178. He’s also first in digs with 147 and has a hitting percentage of .359.
“Carter is a four-year varsity player who’s a very powerful attacker,’’ Guinan said. “He’s got a huge vertical leap (38 inches), he hits and blocks well and plays solid defense. He’s an all-around prospect who’ll focus on academics in college and could easily play volleyball.’’
Six-foot senior captain Bennett Stefanowicz is a right-side hitter who leads by example. Guinan says he chooses captains based on their passion for the game and their concern for the team and Stefanowicz certainly fits that mold. “Bennett has a good vertical leap, blocks well and is solid on defense,’’ Guinan said. “On the court, he’s very sharp mentally.’’
Guinan lauds left-side hitter Adam Caretta, a six-foot senior who’s a four-year veteran of the program. Caretta has 114 kills and 144 digs, both numbers are second on the team. His hitting percentage is .258. “Adam is very focused,’’ Guinan emphasized. “He excels in clutch situations. He’s also got a very good vertical leap, he’s a powerful hitter, plays great defense and has good court awareness.’’
Seniors Caio Almeida and Merrill Cushman are middle hitters who play key roles. Almeida is 6-1 and is the leading blocker on the team with 49. He also has 94 kills. Cushman is six feet and is third in digs with 99 and has a serve percentage of 93.6. He also has 23 blocks. “Caio hits hard, is powerful, blocks well and is a solid all-around competitor. He’s also in great physical shape. Merrill is a good blocker, has great arm speed, serves solidly and his defense is spectacular.’’
Senior Bo Calais, a 5-8 setter, is the team’s quarterback. He’s in his second year as the Mohawks’ starting setter. “Bo is a four-year player who’s consistent and plays a blue-collar game,’’ Guinan said. “He’s not flashy, but he gets the job done. He’s the fastest player on the team, he’s got a high volleyball IQ and he’s solid on defense, serving and blocking.’’
Guinan’s reserves, who get playing time, are senior defensive specialist Malachy Doyle, junior libero Jason Parker, and junior middle/right-side hitter Benjamin Clark.
“Malachy is a first-year varsity player who’s tenacious, always competing with a lot of heart,’’ Guinan said. “Jason was on the jayvees last year. He’s quick, has good hands, serves consistently and is very coachable. Benjamin has a vertical leap that is out of this world. He’s focused, has a high volleyball IQ, serves solidly and he’s developing a power game.’’
Before the season got under way, Guinan listed four goals for his Mohawks: win the conference title, be Central Mass. Sectional champs, qualify for the state finals, and win the state championship. The goals are lofty, but Guinan says they’re “realistic.’’
“We’re strong enough to achieve all four,’’ says the 55-year-old volleyball coach of 28 years. “We’re for real, but we’ve got to stay focused and poised. Last year’s lost early in the playoffs, because it looked beyond the next game.’’
He’s a venerable coach who’s all business, but he also knows when to relax and enjoy a lighter moment with his team. In assembling a roster, he looks for passion for the sport, athleticism, size, and a coachable nature, and players with a character that he calls “being nice.’’
“My philosophy is to teach kids to be prepared and focused,’’ says the coach. “If you’re driven and prepared, winning will follow.