Late coach’s influence seen in growth of Bishop Canevin boys volleyball program

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Sunday, May 16, 2021 | 11:01 AM


It’s hard not to talk Bishop Canevin volleyball without talking about the late Kevin Walters.

While he is known more for the six championships he won as a coach in girls volleyball, he was also a big part of starting the Crusaders boys volleyball program seven years ago.

“He was my assistant for a couple of years after he decided being a head coach of two teams was something he didn’t want to do,” current Bishop Canevin coach Pete Barakat said. “He was an assistant when our current seniors won their first playoff match as freshmen in 2018.

“We followed what the girls team did, and we’ve had his clipboard sitting on the head coach’s chair for every match this season. He’s still a big part of Bishop Canevin.”

The current group of Crusaders has kept another new tradition going as Bishop Canevin has qualified for the WPIAL Class AA playoffs for the fifth straight season.

“The playoffs are the reward for their work and improvement,” Barakat said. “There are nine seniors on this team and after missing last year and the slow start this season, they hung in there long enough to see the rewards and earn a playoff berth. I’m proud of them and happy for them. They’re excited to play a playoff match, and hopefully, more than one.”

A lot of spring sports team had to deal with a lack of experience with the lost 2020 season. Bishop Canevin was hit hard by the little varsity experience the team had, and it showed in a slow start to the season.

“The first part of the season was learning on the job, which is what I hoped last season would be with three first-year junior starters,” Barakat said. “This year, they became first-year senior starters, and those lessons we would have learned last year, we learned when we started 0-5 and 1-6. Once they started to gain that court awareness from actually playing in matches, we started to make some more plays and make fewer errors.

“It’s been fun seeing them gain that experience and improve and get a few wins and start to feel good about themselves, and they should feel good about themselves. They’ve really improved, and we’re a much better team in May than we were in March.”

Barakat ran down the players, all seniors except for freshman Sean Kelsch, that were able to turn the season around and earn a postseason berth.

“Chris Andrews and Carson Gaitens are our outside hitters,” he said. “They’re our two go-to offensive players. They’ve been more aggressive as the season’s progressed and that’s been one reason we’ve played well lately. Our setter, Jordan Ruffing, and our right side hitter, Jack Staley, are starting to work well together too. Ruffing had 38 assists and Staley had 15 kills against Keystone Oaks.

“Carmen Worrall and Collin Milko are making plays in the middle. Joe Brooks and Sean Kelsch are keeping plays alive in the back row. Matthew Mell and Nicholas Paluso have stepped in and made contributions as well.”

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