The Hunterdon Central High School boys volleyball team, runner-up in the Skyland Conference Tournament in 2012, will have to replace eight seniors from a squad that went 17-6 and reached the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA Central sectional tournament.
“We lost a lot to graduation,” head coach Stephen Fenton said. “We have a lot of younger kids that came up this year and we’re going to be pretty tall throughout the lineup.”
Hunterdon Central will have to fill the holes left by outgoing seniors like Christian Hawkinson (316 assists, 31 digs), Johnny Bowser (168 digs, 15 service aces), Pete Desvouges (110 kills, 67 digs) and CJ Norsigian (101 kills).
But Fenton is looking at Kevin Tripp as someone who can help bridge the gap from last year’s senior-laden team to this season’s younger squad.
“(Kevin) Tripp is going to be the go-to guy this year,” Fenton said. “We have some young kids, but they’ll fall in. I really think that Josh Peters is going to be my primary passer this season. We’re breaking some people in and we’re going to go through some growing pains, but hopefully we’ll be able to put something nice together at the end of the season.”
The Red Devils open their regular season April 2 against Skyland Conference rival Bridgewater-Raritan.
Bridgewater-Raritan reached the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA North 2 Tournament last spring as the No. 3 seed with the help of two players that like to get low and dig the ball off the floor. Co-captains Jack Fieseler and Drew Ungerleider combined to dig 244 balls last season, with Ungerleider recording 135 of those. Fieseler also registered 121 kills for Bridgewater-Raritan.
Head coach Corey Romanak expects Fieseler and Ungerleider to guide a young team that has three sophomores and two juniors in the rotation.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Romanak said. “We have a team that hasn’t been tested yet and with the scrimmages so far, it’s hard to tell how good we are right now. I think we’ll be much better by the end of the season.”
But in those scrimmages, Bridgewater-Raritan has taken on the likes of Fair Lawn and St. Joseph (Metuchen), some of the state’s best teams. The goal is to get the team ready for big games when they actually count.
“There is a reason why our scrimmages are against some of the best teams in the state,” Romanak said. “I want to be able to size us up against the best competition and when we get to a great team in the regular season, we’ll be used to it.”
If the Panthers are to be successful in 2013, it’ll be because they develop team chemistry, according to Romanak.
“The most successful teams I’ve coached have chemistry,” he said. “We just don’t have experience in game action, but that will come as the season grows.”
Piscataway’s trio of stars
Ahjon Petty was one of the stars for Piscataway last season, finishing with 235 kills, which was good enough for the 17th most in the state.
Himang Patel, who collected a team-best 361 assists last year will be back for his senior season along with Myles Miller, who registered a team-best 70 blocks last spring.
Piscataway opens its season against perennial state power East Brunswick on April 2.
Hillsborough will host a season-opening invitational tournament for the eighth straight season on April 6. The event, which will get underway at 9 a.m., will showcase some of the best teams in the state in a three-court format, including St. Joseph, Hunterdon Central, East Brunswick and Piscataway.
“In the beginning of the season, it’s a nice showcase and it is nice to see how we stack up,” Hillsborough coach Todd Sudol said. “We schedule a lot of tough teams and it helps us down the stretch. It makes us stronger.”