Joe Whalen's 2013 volleyball team will be formidable
By John D'Onofrio Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Tall, athletic, experienced and teammates for years, the Lockport High School boys varsity volleyball Lions being league favorites this fall is a foregone conclusion.
Head coach Joe Whalen’s promising 16-player team returns everyone to the line-up after an 8-6 Niagara Frontier League season a year ago that included two five-set losses apiece to league-champion Grand Island and runner-up Kenmore East.
With plenty of height and talent to burn, Whalen thinks his team should contend for a Niagara Frontier League title this fall and make some noise in the Section VI playoffs.
“Considering the level of experience we have, we should be one of the best teams in Western New York I think,” said Whalen, now in his 21st season as a Lockport coach.
“This group of players has been playing together a long time and several are club members, which helps immensely. Not only does it help them develop individually as players, they get to know the best players on opposing teams as well and what to expect from them, rather than not knowing what to expect when you walk into the gym to play them.”
Seniors Jonah Ribbeck and Jack Whalen played on the Sweet Home Volleyball Club, while juniors Jason Donorovich and Brad Schneider were members of the Eden Volleyball Club this past year.
Donorovich, at 6-feet, 8-inches, is already garnering significant Division I attention, coach Whalen said. Schneider, one of the team’s top players for years, has added two off-season inches to his already impressive volleyball resume, going from 5-11 to 6-1.
“We expect Brad to be an important part of our offense,” said coach Whalen.
The coach’s son, Jack — a tremendous all-around player and vicious server — is entering his third year as one of the team’s starting setters.
Coach Whalen said he’s excited about opening the season this Saturday at the 2013 Clarence Invitational because the level of talent should be high and that should serve as a good measuring stick for his team prior to the start of their league season (Sept. 10 against visiting Niagara Falls).
Among the fresh faces on the Lions’ deep roster this year are junior Tyler Goodrich, John Patterson and Ryan Smorol, all up from the junior varsity. Returning to the team after a year off is senior Brad Wroblewski, a top baseball prospect in the spring.
Besides Grand Island and Ken East, Whalen said other teams in the league to watch out for this fall will include North Tonawanda and Niagara-Wheatfield.
“Our expectations are winning the NFL title — and you have to believe that we can do that,” Whalen said. “Besides that, we’d like to go deep in sectionals.”
Rounding out the Lions’ roster are seniors Ryan Guyton, Joel Larson, Bryce Perry, John Traversone, Bryan Wojcinski, Jeff Wojcinski and Eamon Yates.