Rebuilding, Millis Spikers Will Still Be Competitive

Millis boys volleyball might have players who’ve competed at the jayvee level, but they still have a promising amount of experience under their belts, says Coach Jay Guinan.
Issue Date: 
April, 2018
Article Body: 

Jay Guinan has guided the Millis boys volleyball team into tournament action 10 times during his 12 years as the Mohawks’ coach. And, although he’s using the “rebuilding’’ word to describe his 2018 squad, the veteran coach still believes his forces can qualify for the Central Mass. Division 1 Tournament.
“Rebuilding means we’ll have young players, mostly sophomores who haven’t been on the varsity, but we’ll be competitive,’’ the 56-year-old Guinan said. “This year’s squad will have players who were jayvees last year, but they’ve had three seasons at that level. These are kids who know the game, and they’re skilled.’’
Guinan’s prime goal for the current campaign is daily improvement that builds consistency. If that occurs, then he firmly believes a tourney berth is in the mix. “It’s realistic,’’ he emphasized, “because a .500 record is what’s needed and that’s not a problem.’’
Seven seniors from last year’s 17-2 team that won the Western Alliance championship have graduated, including Carter Burruss and Adam Caretta, a pair of outside hitters. They provided about 80 percent of the Mohawks’ offense and were league all-stars. “Carter also was a Boston Globe and Boston Herald All-Scholastic,’’ Guinan said. “He was a very special player.’’
Last year’s contingent earned a bye in the first round of the tourney, then suffered an upset in the quarterfinals when Framingham triumphed. “Last year’s team was one of my best at Millis,’’ Guinan said. “We played well, but we weren’t as sharp as usual because of the time off. Framingham, however, has a quality program, and on any given day any team can win in tourney play.’’
Guinan, who’s coached at four other high schools and three colleges, has been directing volleyball teams for 29 years, and he’s optimistic he’ll have another representative team that will mature into a solid unit.
“Our strengths include experience, team chemistry and our defensive ability,’’ Guinan said. “Experience this year means they know the game. It’s not new to them. Our team chemistry is good, because the kids have been together for several years. And, though we’re not big, our defensive capability is high. My one concern is how well we play above the net.’’
Senior Ben Clark, a 5-foot-9 middle hitter, and senior Jason Parker, a 5-foot-4 libero, will be major assets this season. Clark learned the sport’s finer points the last two years and Parker has been playing since he was a seventh-grader.
“Ben has a huge vertical leap,’’ Guinan said. “He’s powerful, has blocking ability and is mentally tough. His speed and quickness also are plusses. Jason has a good handle on the game. He holds his own defensively, serves consistently, can jump, is fast and has a high volleyball IQ.’’
Lucas Graham, is a 5-foot-10 sophomore setter who also is the team’s captain. He got some playing time last year as a freshman. “Lucas leads by example and by being vocal,’’ Guinan said. “The quarterback of the team, he works hard, has a good volleyball IQ and serves consistently. Jason holds his own on defense, is fast and can jump. He’s got a good handle on the game.’’
Two sophomore hitters will be key contributors. They include 5-foot-10 Evan Simmons and 5-foot-11 Joshua Bergman. “Evan can play the middle or the right side,’’ Guinan said. “He’s got big hands, is strong and understands the game. He’s got power and is a capable blocker whose ball control is very good. Joshua can jump and has great arm swing. His technique is very good, and he could be a top-notch outside hitter in the league. He can block, he’s quick and knows the game.’’
Sophs Marcus Vorpahl (5-9 setter) and Griffin Walsh (5-11 hitter) and junior Kyle Quinzani (six-foot middle hitter) will likely be part of Guinan’s nucleus.
“Marcus has experience, is smart and his court awareness is good,’’ Guinan said. “Griffin and Kyle both have a good vertical leap and are quick. I like the progress they made last year. However, they need time to hone their technique but hopefully they’ll learn quickly.’’
When assembling a team, Guinan looks for specific attributes and they include passion for the sport, athleticism, size, character and a coachable nature. “If our players are prepared, driven and focused, then winning will follow,’’ he said. “And, it’s important to make sure our players are having fun while they compete.’’
Guinan’s 10 appearances in the Sectional playoffs with Millis include six trips to the quarterfinals, three to the semifinals, and one in the finals. That frequency definitely is a formula for having fun.