When Brett Widman (now in his 14th Varsity season) took over the WSW Boys Volleyball program it was positioned firmly at the bottom of ECIC I.
The team had fallen out of the league title discussion soon after the Matt Anderson era came to an end and it would take a few long years to become relevant again.
A complete rebuild was needed.
This process would last a few years but once everything began to click the Indians sky-rocketed all the way up to a #2 ranking in WNY.
While that roster has since graduated the values instilled in the program are the same.
Pick each other up and move forward no matter what stands in your way.
No nights off.
Last year saw a young Indians team (starting lineup included two seniors, two juniors, a sophomore and two freshman) go 8-11 en route to the Division 2A Semi-Final Match.
Entering this year Coach Widman is expecting a considerable leap forward from his team, having this to say when discussing his outlook going into the season:
“I can safely say that the talent level of this team is the highest of any I have ever coached and they are still young. They are all dedicated to the sport and to becoming not just better volleyball players, but also becoming well-rounded student athletes that represent West in a positive light.”
Despite still being one of the younger teams in Section VI this year, WSW already has the skills needed to run a potent, high energy, fast tempo offense.
“We are going to be a very tall, fast, athletic, and well-balanced team. We will not be relying on one or two players to terminate. We will be spreading the ball in all directions and forcing teams into one-on-one matchups as much as we can.”
Senior Nicholas Szablicki will be tasked with running that attack – he will assume full-time setting responsibilities after last year’s setter, Jack Breen, graduated.
Junior Joseph Wesley will replace the graduated Nicholas Pozzuto (2018 ECIC I – 1st Team, St. Francis University) on the outside this year after spending his sophomore campaign in the middle.
As a 1st-year Varsity player last season Wesley was still learning and adjusting to the speed of the game. He spent the off-season training with the NFVB 17U team and returned as a “very well-rounded dynamic player, ” according to Widman. “His skill set is much more complete and brings a level headed playing style to the floor.”
Wesley is expected to start as the team’s OH1.
Pairing Wesley on the outside will be sophomore Aedan Vanegas, who cracked the starting lineup last year as a freshman.
Senior Nathan Petrik (2018 All-WNY – 2nd Team) will start on the right pin; younger brother Noah (sophomore, 2018 ECIC I – 2nd Team) returns in the middle.
Rounding out the starting lineup on day 1 will be sophomores Jacob Woelfel (middle blocker) and Duncan Tenhagan (libero).
“We are seeing very high level volleyball in our gym during practices,” continued Widman. “Wash drills have been very competitive and guys are laying it all out on the floor to compete. They know that we have an opportunity to make a deep playoff run and maybe beyond.”
In order to prepare for what will hopefully be a deep run at Sectionals the Indians have loaded their schedule with the top competition in WNY.
“Playing in ECIC Division 1 affords us the luxury of having no off nights. Every team in our division is competitive. On any given night any team can post a win over any opponent. […] Our schedule is competitive from Day 1 to the finish of the season. We scheduled the top teams to make sure we were ready come playoff time.”
Aside from their ECIC I schedule WSW will play host to Canisius on Wednesday, Sept. 16th and Eden on Wednesday, Oct. 18th.
“The expectations are very clear. We have a very realistic expectation of making a run at a sectional title and beyond. We know a lot of things have to align for that to happen….to stay healthy, to stay positive, to practice hard, but the talent is there to make the goal achievable.”
The Indians kickoff their ECIC I schedule against a visiting Lancaster team on Wednesday, September 4th.
The photos used in this article were provided courtesy of Peggy Pozzuto.
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