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There’s strength in numbers for Shenendehowa boys’ volleyball

posted Sep 8, 2015, 9:08 AM by John Coletta

At the start of Wednesday’s season-opening match against Colonie, one Shenendehowa boys’ volleyball reserve needed to stand at the end of the team’s bench area, which was short one cushy green chair. Somewhere along the way to a 3-0 win, another seat disappeared, forcing a second resting Plainsmen to stand and watch his playing teammates.

None of the affected players seemed too bothered. After a couple weeks together, the Shenendehowa squad is starting to get used to the quirks that come along with being a 21-player outfit.

“We’re at capacity,” joked Shenendehowa head coach John Coletta, whose athletes’ jerseys use each offering from Nos. 1 to 21. A year ago, when it finished as the Section II Division I runner-up to Bethlehem, Shenendehowa’s roster had 16 players, which is a couple more than most large-school teams carry. When tryouts were finished for this season’s team, senior Tom Hurley said the Plainsmen wondered how such a large roster would function.

“I was definitely surprised,” said Hurley, who had 24 assists in Shenendehowa’s season-opening win. “I think everyone else was surprised, too.”

“But they all earned it,” said Coletta, whose team won Wednesday with scores of 25-11, 25-15, and 25-19. “They all showed they had the ability to be a part of our team, our family — and [family] is something we’re really emphasizing this year.”The Plainsmen are pushing competition, too. Coletta kept so many players, in part, after studying how some of the state’s top boys’ teams — such as Section V’s Fairport and McQuaid Jesuit — constructed their rosters. Those squads generally kept 20 or so players, a makeup which allows a team to run high-octane, action-packed practices because of the sheer number of participants.At Shenendehowa, Section II’s most-populated school, senior Mitchell DeBortoli said the Plainsmen have used their abundance of players to occasionally run multiple nets at practice. When the team does that, one court is able to work through 6-on-6 scrimmage-like sessions, while the remaining players work on skills.

“We almost have two practices going on at once,” said DeBortoli, who — along with fellow senior Colin McCabe — had nine kills against Colonie.Meanwhile, the Garnet Raiders dressed 10 players for Wednesday’s match against Shenendehowa. The opener as well for Colonie, head coach Zack Kuhn said the match was invaluable for his club because its preseason lacked much game-like scrimmaging; often, he said, his team’s short bench left Kuhn to be an active participant for practices.

“Whereas, Shen, they have a football-sized team,” said Kuhn, a first-year coach for Colonie who played in high school for Columbia.

The tough part for the Plainsmen is that only six of their players are able to see the court at one time in matches. During Wednesday’s contest, Shenendehowa rotated seven players throughout the first set before opening it up later and getting 13 players into the match.

Sophomore Spencer Anderson was one of the last appearing Plainsmen to hit the court. Entering at the start of the third set, he had spent the first two sets intently watching the players in front of him — Anderson plays both middle and outside hitter — to make sure he was ready to contribute.

“That way, when you get out on the court, you know where you are mentally,” said Anderson, who had three digs in limited action. Physically, Shenendehowa still needs time to sort out its many pieces. The goal is to come up with a puzzle capable of dethroning Bethlehem, which has won the last five area large-school titles.

“We’re trying to find out who goes best where and who meshes the best together,” DeBortoli said.

And one — maybe two — more chairs for the team’s home bench.Shenendehowa's Tom Hurley (3) sets up a shot as Shen boys' volleyball takes on South Colonie at home on Wednesday, September 2, 2015. (PATRICK DODSON/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER)Shenendehowa's Colin McCabe (6) spikes as Shen boys' volleyball takes on South Colonie at home on Wednesday, September 2, 2015. (PATRICK DODSON/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER)

Shenendehowa boys' volleyball takes on South Colonie at home on Wednesday, September 2, 2015. (PATRICK DODSON/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER)