Despite youth and inexperience Greenwich boys volleyball still aiming high

While there will be a bunch of fresh faces on the Greenwich High School boys volleyball team this season, head coach Pete Georgiou still has the aspirations of once again reaching a postseason berth.

Last year Big Red finished the regular season with a 12-5 record and grabbed the No. 7 seed in the CIAC class L postseason. Although Greenwich hosted a playoff game in the opening round, they fell to No. 10 Xavier High School to end its season 3-2 (31-29, 25-27, 17-25, 25-22, 7-15).

With the loss in States last year, Big Red also lost key athletes to graduation. Zak Steiner (middle), Dexter Frisch (middle), Packy Hanrahan (setter) and Aiden Rafferty (outside) were all key contributors to the team reaching 12 regular season wins.

“It’s hard to replace one of them and we have to replace four of them,” Georgiou said. “We lost four huge players and that is going to be hard to replace.”

“We are definitely a young team this year,” Georgiou said. “We have a lot of sophomores and freshmen returning from last year. I graduated a lot of key positions, but so far there are a lot of kids that are stepping it up and making the decisions difficult for us. There are a lot of inexperienced kids on the team, but what they lack in experience, they make up in heart.”

Sophomore Daizo Mori was a huge pickup for GHS last year at oustide and will return to that position this year. Last year’s libero, Davis Lee, will be back again this year as well.

“We lost a lot of seniors last year,” Lee said. “You could think of this as a rebuilding season, but we have a lot of potential and a lot of first-year kids here. We are looking to improve as the season moves along and we want to perform to our maximum potential in the postseason. I want to lead the team in defense.”

Sophomore Eric Kastigiannis, who had some touches last year at defensive middle, will be again back. Ethan Jaffe is a returning senior and has looked stellar during the preseason.

“This team is looking better than we expected,” Jaffe said. “We have a lot of new players, but we have high-intensity and high-focus. A lot of new people are adapting really well. Our practices are run very efficiently, so people are learning what they need to learn in a quicker amount of time. This year I plan on focusing on the middle position and working the ball around. I want to be a good teammate and good leader.”

Newcomers on the team that Georgiou is hoping will make their presence felt are Michael Gianopoulos, Thomas Cespedes, Matt Lamanna.

Cespedes is a basketball player that is trying out the sport of volleyball and is using his height to help him succeed. According to Georgiou, Gianopoulos is a natural athlete and has picked up the sport of volleyball very quickly.

Another returner for Greenwich High School this will be Will Hohorst.

“I feel nervous coming in here, just like I felt last year coming to the team,” Hohorst said. “We lost a lot of talent the previous year and we still had a great year last year. This year we lost four of our six starters, so I am a little apprehensive. But coming in we got a lot of new faces and a lot of juniors, which is a class that we didn’t have last year. It’s nice to see some athletic faces around here and I’m happy that so many came out to try out for volleyball.”

While Hohorst is excited for his senior season, it’s going to be cut a little short. Midway through the season, the GHS senior will be leaving to have heart surgery. Hohorst was born with a heart disease and will be undergoing a valve replacement.

“I can’t play in the playoffs, but I plan on helping out with off the court leadership,” Hohorst said. “Hopefully I can bring something to the team while I am here. I’m getting out of school a little early, so it’s not all that bad. They are expecting an absolutely full recovery in about six months and I will be out of bed two weeks after the surgery.”

For Georgiou, the team’s biggest strength is the chemistry up and down the roster.

“We are united,” the GHS head coach said. “Across the board, whether its varsity or junior varsity, it’s still one program. We come together at the beginning and end of every practice. No matter what team the kids are on, they know they have a part to contribute to the program as a whole. That’s a huge plus for us.”

On the court, Georgiou has been impressed with the team’s defense.

“We have kids that can hit, but like every other sport, offense is great but defense wins championships,” Georgiou said. “Whether or not I have great hitters, if we are able ot dig and block, we will be in a lot of games when things are competitive. Hopefully we will pull some upsets this year because of our defense.”

With the team’s inexperience at volleyball, Georgiou is hoping Big Red improves on its passing game. For the GHS head coach, nothing is more important than passing and that’s been something Greenwich High has tried to be successful at for years.

“We need to be sound passers,” Georgiou said. “Other than the serve, which is the most important skill, if you can’t pass you can forget the setting and hitting. It’s all about passing and passing consistently. I am hoping we are talking about postseason play. We are a team that’s been in the postseason four years in a row and want to continue that tradition. I think anything less than that, the kids here will look at this season as a failure.

Despite the inexperience and youth on the roster, the Greenwich High volleyball team has not lowered its expectations.

“They want to continue our legacy of making the postseason,” Georgiou said. “We have high expectations still. The newcomers are strong. I have some first-year seniors, some juniors and they are all aiming high. We are setting the bar high and won’t let excuses come into play.”

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