Men’s Volleyball in Fourth Season with Seasoned Senior Stars

Clare Ravizza, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

The Men’s Volleyball team has begun its fourth season at NDA. The program, which joined the NDA athletic community in the 2014-2015 school year, now for the first time includes seniors who have been playing all throughout their high school careers.

Three such players include seniors Paul Gapinski, Jacob Larsen and Jon Zacharias. All three joined the program as freshmen and have witnessed its growth and changes.

One noticeable change, according to Gapinski, is the growth of the players.

“For the people who were freshmen when the program started, you can see the progression of how they grew in talent and skill,” said Gapinski. “For a couple years, we had seniors on the team who had just started [playing volleyball], so it’s interesting to see the progression of talent for people who’ve done it longer.”

There has also been a sizeable increase in players. In 2014, the program began with Varsity and JV teams. Last year, it adapted to add a freshman team due to the amount of interest.

Zacharias recognized an increase in not only players, but in the program as a whole with “the additions of coaches and managers to the staff throughout the years,” as well as increased fan turnout and support.

“More guys are coming out to play, especially with our large group of freshmen this year,” explained Zacharias.

And more than ever, the seniors who have been involved with the program all throughout high school have become role models for the younger players just beginning to play Men’s Volleyball.

“My freshmen think ya’ll are awesome,” said English teacher Carolyn Brown of the experienced seniors.

Despite the difference in age, Larsen described a shared camaraderie among his teammates.

“It’s just the way we interact with one another,” said Larsen. “We have a lot of fun. There’s not a lot of pressure. We can just play and not have to worry about all of the things that you would typically consider stresses in a varsity program.”

Larsen attributed this, at least in part, to the way in which volleyball is played: with each team together on either side of the net.

“In football and soccer, you’re on the field, mixing with the other team, but in volleyball it’s just your team. You control your side,” described Larsen.

Zacharias agreed, saying, “I really enjoy the team aspect and the camaraderie that forms both on and off the court, and also the competitive nature of just trying to outplay the team on the other side of the court.”

“Volleyball is a very different sport than most of the other options for guys,” said Gapinski. “It’s not anything like football or cross country, so it opens up another option for kids who don’t exactly know what they want to do.”

Another opportunity for team bonding is on the long road to away games. Because the FRCC does not include Men’s Volleyball, the NDA team is a part of the Fox Valley Association, in which the shortest commute is “about a half hour,” according to Larsen.

Despite the long travels, the NDA men are currently undefeated with “a perfect record of 1-0,” stated Zacharias.

The varsity team–which consists of seniors Gapinski, Larsen, Zacharias, Eric Ritchay, Reese Johnson, Cole Cullen, Christian Van, Jonah Collard, Zach Sengstock and Conor Hogan, junior Duncan Riedi and sophomore Eli Servais–typically plays conference matches on Mondays and Tuesdays, in addition to sporadic non-conference matches.

This year, the players have their eyes set on the endgame: regionals.

“One of the things that the coaches have talked to us about is, since we’re a fairly new program, we’ve never won a regional match. One of our goals is to win that first round of regionals,” explained Larsen. “We hope to do well enough during the season so that we can win.”

Gapinski is not daunted by the challenge.

“As you get to play better teams like Kaukauna and Kimberly, as you get towards their level of playing, it becomes a lot more fast-paced. That’s a lot more difficulty but it is also, sometimes, a lot more fun,” Gapinski described.

“I think we have our moments of greatness,” commented Larsen. “I think there are some things we can do really, really well and that there are other things that we struggle with.”

Regardless of the team’s success this season, Gapinski is grateful that he went out of his comfort zone freshman year to join Men’s Volleyball.

“When I was going in my freshman year, I was definitely very timid about it,” admitted Gapinski. “I didn’t know if I would like it. But I think that if I hadn’t, I would be a completely different person today.”

Gapinski concluded, “For anyone that’s timid about doing something, go for it, because you might end up being a better person because of it.”