Encouraging start to 2015 season for Niskayuna boys’ volleyball

Niskayuna prepares to start a play during a boys' volleyball match Monday, Sept. 21, 2015 against Colonie at Niskayuna High School. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)Niskayuna prepares to start a play during a boys' volleyball match Monday, Sept. 21, 2015 against Colonie at Niskayuna High School. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

BY MICHAEL KELLY
Gazette Sportswriter

NISKAYUNA — After a hot start, the enthusiasm never left the Niskayuna boys’ volleyball team in its 3-0 win Sept. 21 against Colonie.

Through its first six matches of the season, Niskayuna has come out on the winning side three times. But with a youthful roster including only one senior, first-year head coach Jen Chartrand said a top priority this season has been making sure her Silver Warriors enjoy the process of building up the boys’ volleyball program.

“That’s something I push with them, to come here and be excited to play,” said Chartrand, who coached Niskayuna’s junior varsity team last season. “I want them to get excited and get pumped to play.”

Niskayuna team members gather around coach Jen Chartrand during a boys' volleyball match Monday, Sept. 21, 2015 against Colonie at Niskayuna High School. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

Niskayuna team members gather around coach Jen Chartrand during a boys’ volleyball match Monday, Sept. 21, 2015 against Colonie at Niskayuna High School. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

“That was the most enthusiastic we’ve been this season,” junior Damien Whittemore said. “If we start with it early, we try to keep it through the whole match.”

That was not difficult against Colonie, as Niskayuna raced out to a 10-0 lead in the first set of a match it won with scores of 25-8, 25-10, and 25-14. The high-fives, “Let’s go” cries, and fist pumps were a constant throughout the match, which saw Niskayuna put together seven different runs of at least four consecutive points.

“The talent’s getting there for us,” said junior Jim Cesare, who had 14 assists in the win. “We have mostly juniors here, but this has been one of our better years.”

Also in the victory, Whittemore had nine kills and Liam Meachem had 13 digs.

“We’re building and growing much faster than I thought we would be,” said Chartrand, whose team consists of nine juniors and lone senior Manny Valenza.

Matches like the one against Colonie help that process. Strong serves from a variety of Silver Warriors keyed the path to victory, but Niskayuna also showed off a stout team defense and improving skill sets for each of its players.

“We’ve developed our passing a lot more,” Chartrand said. “That was our biggest weak point, and now we have our passing down and we’re rolling it right to our big hitters.”

In a tough Suburban Council, finishing above .500 is a fitting goal for Niskayuna’s regular season. Next year, the Silver Warriors’ varsity lineup will likely boast a veteran crew of seniors, but building for next year is not the only concern for the squad that wants to continue to have a good time this fall as its players develop.

“We’re enjoying it and trying to win,” Whittemore said. “But we still have some stuff to work on, too.”

About the Author

Michael Kelly
Michael Kelly is a sports reporter for Your Clifton Park and Your Niskayuna, weekly print publications of The Daily Gazette. Kelly grew up in Clifton Park and graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 2006. He is also a 2010 graduate of the Stony Brook University School of Journalism. Kelly's work has been honored by the New York News Publishers Association, the New York State Associated Press Association, and the Associated Press Sports Editors. His work has previously been featured in The (Amsterdam) Recorder, The Saratogian, and Albany Times Union.