Three states feature boys high school volleyball as a fall sport: New York, Virginia and Wisconsin.
And when it comes to proper recognition of the boys game as a whole, these three states tend to get lost in the shuffle.
We start up in Wisconsin where top-ranked Kimberly, a town located east of Appleton, won the state title in four sets over Germantown — a suburban Milwaukee school. It was Kimberly’s first state title and second state-final appearance in a row against Germantown.
Kimberly (35-2) had no easy path to the finale, beating state No. 7 Appleton North in the sectional final in five and then defeating Kettle Moraine and No. 8 Brookfield East before encountering state No. 2 Germantown.
The Papermakers were led by state player of the year Landon Krause (6-5, OH), who finished his run at the school with career records in kills (890) and aces (149), first-team all-stater Tommy Clausz (6-5, MB, 181 blocks in 2019) and third-team all-stater Spencer Herman (6-5, RS). Krause is headed to Lewis University, while Herman is a Concordia University (Mequon, Wisconsin) recruit.
“We returned three of our highly decorated players in Landon, Spencer and Tommy,” Papermakers coach Matt Seidl said. “That leadership, along with other talented players helped lead us to the title.”
Seidl said Krause was the state player of the year for a reason. “He can do anything from anywhere on the court,” he said. “He is an elite defender, server and offensive weapon. He also is left-handed and as impressive of a boys volleyball player that our area has ever seen.”
Seidl also heaped praise on first-year setter Tony Wisneski. “Tony played a huge role in our success,” he said. “He became stronger and more confident as the season went along. He was very consistent and helped make our offense even more dynamic.”
Germantown finished the year 34-6-2 overall and was making its third state-title appearance since 2013 (the Warhawks lost to Marquette in five in 2013). Germantown defeated Marquette in the semifinals this year in four.
Coach Brian Rushmer noted Germantown graduated four of seven starters from the 2018 state title team, including three former first-team all-staters who are playing in college (that list includes 2018 state player of the year Bryce Behrendt, now at Ball State) and one who is playing college basketball after forgoing a volleyball opportunities at that level.
“We were very proud to have the season we did,” Rushmer said.
Germantown was led by first-team all-state selection Hans Stelpflug (6-6, setter), who was the Greater Metro Conference player of the year, along with second-team all-stater Drew Jansen (6-1, OH) and honorable-mention all-state selections Ben Schultz (6-0, OH) and Jackson Van Engen (6-4, MB). Fellow seniors Simon Quella (6-2, RS) and Adam Lopata (6-0, libero) also were key cogs.
Rushmer noted Stelpflug took a major step forward at the controls this season.
“Hans started as a junior, but had three first-team all-state hitters to set,” he said. “This year he grew drastically when it came to decision-making and execution of an offense.”
Jansen led the team in kills and swings.
“This was Drew’s first year starting the entire year,” Rushmer said. He was our go-to option in-system and out of system. “He was one of the best players on the court in the state final, regardless of team.”
This was Germantown’s 13th year with boys volleyball in the school, and the Warhawks have now qualified for the eight-team state tournament in seven of the last nine years.
In terms of star power in Wisconsin, Krause, Stelpflug, Parker Van Buren (Middleton), Matthew Spellman (Waukesha West) and David Markes (Wauwatosa East) were cited by both Seidl and Rushmer as five of the top players in the state. Spellman is headed to USC, while Van Buren signed with Loyola-Chicago.
“This class of 2020 is extremely strong in Wisconsin, so picking a top five is very difficult,” Rushmer said.
New York — Perennial power McQuaid Jesuit out of Rochester, New York, is front and center again as the New York state titleholder.
Since the state title format started in New York in 2010, McQuaid has won five titles (2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2019) and has one runner-up finish (2014) to its credit.
This time around, McQuaid topped Sachem North from Long Island in five sets for the Division I crown at the Capital Center in Albany. Sachem had beaten McQuaid in straight sets in state pool play.
Owen Wickens, verbally committed to Penn State, was named the state player of the year and the finals MVP. Wickens hit a school-record .702 this season for a McQuaid team that started only two seniors.
“We take pride in the fact we are not a team, we are a family,” coach Christopher Parks said. “The family has a mantra, ‘tradition never graduates,’ and it is every player’s and coach’s responsibility to add to the tradition by doing all we do for each other.”
Parks noted the team ran “big brother” practices for the younger levels at the school, and joined in on community service and family-bonding initiatives. The team’s family-read for varsity players and coaches this season was “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. McQuaid players wrote reflection papers on the reading.
Parks added the team was struck by adversity late in the season when school and program graduate Dane Leclair (captain of the 2014 team) died in an accidental fall in October. Leclair played at Loyola-Chicago and was a graduate assistant for the Nebraska women’s team.
“Our boys immediately dedicated our family’s season and focus to Dane and the legacy he left behind,” Parks said. “As Owen said to a reporter, ‘We play for each other. We don’t play alone, (and) we play for our lost family.”
During the state tournament, the scoreboard referred to McQuaid as “LECLAIR” (as it appeared on its warm-up shirts), and team members wore argyle socks (as Leclair had worn throughout his high school career).
“When we won we presented Dane’s father with one of our championship medals as he came down to the court from the stands,” Parks noted.
McQuaid also teamed up with the Rush-Henrietta boys team in a joint community service initiative to benefit veterans, including a match in which both programs wore camouflage jerseys and honored and recognized the nation’s veterans. The two teams raised $1,400 that night for veterans’ outreach initiatives.
McQuaid’s final record is listed in multiple media outlets as 21-0, despite the pool-play loss to Sachem in Albany.
Sachem North, located in Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y., finished the year 18-1 and was in the state-title match for the fourth time since 2014 and second straight year. Sachem won the 2015 state title.
Seniors A.J. Fitzgerald (307 kills, .394 hitting, 40 aces) and CJ Johnson (614 assists) were named all-region and all-state. John Curaro finished with 209 digs.
Coach Matt Rivera noted the Flaming Arrows returned five starters from last year’s finalist. “We had experienced players with great athleticism on the pins,” he noted.
Curaro was Sachem’s starting libero as a junior.
“He came off a sophomore year splitting time, and this year he started and played every game,” Rivera said of his Suffolk County libero of the year award recipient.
Junior Chris Lehnert, a 6-8 middle blocker, started as a sophomore, but as Rivera noted, “returned this year as the dominant middle in the region.”
Sachem also was powered by the story of assistant coach Matthew “Dezy” DiStefano, who is battling kidney cancer. The team, Rivera noted, adopted his mantra of “We Get To” and has embraced the Dezy Strong Movement. DiStefano is a graduate of the school and a Sachem Sports Hall of Fame inductee. His Dezy Strong Foundation helps families affected by cancer.
In terms of top players in the state, Rivera pegged McQuaid’s Wickens, his duo of Fitzgerald and Johnson, Shen’s Tyler Christensen and Massapequa’s Nick Bianco.
In Division II, Grand Island won the state title against Jamesville-DeWitt, giving the school based northwest of Buffalo near the Canadian border, its first state title in any sport. Grand Island finished the year 23-0, including six wins in the postseason. It was the Vikings first time in the finale.
Junior outside hitter Billy Wieberg was named the state tournament MVP, while teammates Zach Cramer (5-11, setter, Jr.) and David Wynne (5-11, libero, Sr.), along with Nick Keller (6-5, RS, Sr.) earned spots on the state tournament all-star team.
Wieberg had 540 kills this season, including a school-record 36 in a single match. He hit .441 and passed at a 2.7 clip on a 3.0 scale. Cramer set the school mark for assists in a season with 1,179, while Wynne hit the school record for digs with 562.
“Billy was our go-to player as a junior,” coach Bill Schultz said. “You can count on him to put the ball away in tough situations from the front and back rows. He is an offensive weapon most teams cannot defend. He is a great passer and plays solid defense.”
Cramer and Wynne were team captains, Cramer holding the designation as a junior. “Zach can run a variety of offensive plays at a fast tempo pace that keeps other teams guessing,” the coach explained. “He is quick to the ball and able to read blockers and set to the hitter, who has the best advantage of putting the ball away. David was our primary passer (passed at a 2.65 clip on a 3.0 scale). He would cover the majority of the court. He excelled at reading and covering tips. If the setter dug a ball, David was easily able to run the offense and set from the back row.”
Schultz noted team chemistry played a big role this season. “It started over the summer when they all would get together and play beach volleyball,” he said. “They stayed positive and confident. If anyone was having an off game, the rest of the team would step up. They like to be in pressure situations and were able to come back from a deficit several times.”
Schultz lauded the support the team received from the school and community during its run. “We had student/fan busses travel to regionals and state,” he said. “The entire town welcomed us back from state with a fire truck escort and motorcade to school with about 250 people.”
The team was recognized by the town and school boards and presented with a proclamation from the town supervisor. Grand Island also won the Western New York 2019 sportsmanship award and Schultz earned a coach of the year honor.
Jamesville-DeWitt, out of the eastern Syracuse suburbs, went 16-5 and made the finals for the first time in program history.
Senior outside hitter Matthew Cieplicki was named the Section 3 player of the year, while senior 6-4 middle Nicholas Kemmis was a CNY first-team pick.
Coach Kyle Michael labeled Cieplicki as one of the team’s go-to players when a big play was needed or required offensively. “He had the ability to make the best of every set regardless of its position,” he said. “There were times where him and Kenny Hildreth (outside hitter) would make the most unbelievable saves, in which as it’s unfolding I am thinking the ball is dead or out of play, but they managed to pull off some incredible saves.”
Senior setter Brevin Scullion moved out of the libero position he manned for the past three years. “He was not super-excited at first because he loved playing libero and it was his passion,” Michael said. “Brevin never complained about his new role and wound up stepping up in every way throughout the season and make it his own. And for never truly playing front row in his career, he turned out to be a very good natural blocker.”
The libero opening was scooped up by senior Matthew Kemmis. “Matt was another hard-working player who took on his role without hesitation and owned it,” Michael said. “He played a crucial role defensively as well had an unbelievably high serve-receive percentage.”
Virginia Class 5 champion Deep Run
Virginia — Virginia crowned three boys state champions this fall as Jones River, Deep Run and Patrick Henry all won titles.
Deep Run, based in the Richmond suburb of Glen Allen, won its third state title in a row and fourth in program history with a win over Glen Allen High in the 5A final. Deep Run, which made the finals in 2008, had beaten Glen Allen in the region finals as well. Deep Run ended the year 23-0.
Senior setter Cade Terrell earned region player of the year honors. Teammates Sean McDermott (OH) and Marko Stjepanovic (MB) were named to the region first team, while Tyler Weber (OH) and Grant Baker (MB) were all-region second-team picks for coach Kevin Pond. Terrell had 840 assists and 136 digs, while McDermott had 381 kills, 144 digs and hit .385.
“This season was all about leadership, starting with Cade Terrell,” Pond said. “Having 11 seniors, who have played a lot of volleyball and all play club as well, was a big part of our success. Also having a dominant outside such as Sean, who can score from anywhere, didn’t hurt either.”
Pond labeled Weber and Baker as the “X” factors due to their consistent play. Weber served at a 93.5 percent clip, had 31 aces, while hitting .402 with 166 kills out of the OH2 position. Baker hit .338 with 79 kills and 63 blocks out of the middle.
Terrell, McDermott, Glen Allen’s Caden Cowart and Gio Deluca and Midlothian’s Carson Parrish all play on Pond’s ODVA 18 club team. “I’m excited for that to get rolling, for sure,” Pond said.
In Class 6A, Ocean Lakes, out of Virginia Beach, lost to James River (western Richmond suburbs) in the finale. Ocean Lakes finished 21-7 and was in the final for the third time in program history. Ocean Lakes defeated Kellam in the state semifinals after losing to them twice in the regular season.
Senior libero Lucas Bushey earned his second all-state honor, while outside Noah Naas, setter Tony Velazquez and middle Pierce Corson were all-state second-team picks. Naas had 256 kills, while Velazquez had 530 assists.
“Lucas was the best libero in the state,” coach Heath Boomer said. “He made plays that no one should make. Noah was an unselfish outside who carried his team on his back when he needed to, and Tony made good decisions and put his hitters in a position to succeed.”
Boomer said mental toughness was in abundance with his group.
“We won the hustle and mental game each time we went out,” he said. “They prepared well and played as a single unit. Our strength was our defense and we played at a high level and bought into that team defense.”
In 4A, Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School in Richmond reached the state title match in its first-ever trip to state, losing to Patrick Henry in the final.
Key contributors for MLWGS, out of Richmond, included first-team all-region selections Charlie Unice (5-9, setter) and Grant Collier (6-3, OH), along with second-team all-region pick Tim Tymowski (6-7, RS) and region honorable-mention libero Eli Benesh. Collier led the team in kills with 238, and had 297 digs. Unice had 608 assists and 229 digs, while Matteo Deluca had 160 kills, 279 digs and 45 aces as a sophomore on the varsity. Benesh, as coach Wes Bolyard pointed out, racked up a dig for every day of the year: 365 of them.
“I try to motivate my team and have them motivate and support each other in high-pressure situations,” Bolyard said. “Our three captains (Collier, Tymowski and Unice) played huge roles on the team. Grant was an essential tool on the court. He is a great kid who strived and practiced to be better and succeeded in doing so. Tim was a great source of energy for the team. Even when he would make a mistake, he was ready to support anyone else who would mess up. Charlie was a jokester who try to make light of high-pressure situations, which was helpful in decompressing the boys between sets. When he got on the court, he hustled, made good work of poor passes and pushed our players to do better.”
Patrick Henry of Roanoke won its record fourth state title in a row with middle blocker Cal Inge being named region player of the year. Ben Russell, a right side hitter, also was a key player for Henry.
“Part of getting there is believing you can do it, especially as an underdog in the area and being at a governor’s (magnet) school,” Bolyard said. “These boys surprised themselves with what they accomplished. We have a lot of young talent and I expect to continue our success in the coming years. We started a great foundation for which to continue building.”