Moon boys volleyball searching for playoff berth

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Monday, April 11, 2022 | 3:27 PM


The Moon boys volleyball team is focused on one purposeful goal.

“We are hoping to earn a playoff spot this year,” coach Steve Nicola said. “We have improved over the past couple years but have not been to the playoffs for a while.

“We have had people playing a lot of different positions based off of how our year has started. We believe if we continue to improve, this could be the year we get back into the playoffs.”

The Tigers have been working diligently on improving their defense and their setting tactics.

“We returned every starter from last year other than our setter,” Nicola said. “We do not have anyone on our roster with past setting experience, so we have spent a lot of time working on that.

“We also know we need to improve defensively if we want to have a chance at making the playoffs. Our biggest strength are our outside hitters.”

Enter Bradyn Winters, a 6-foot-5 junior who was named all-section last year in his first varsity season. Winters normally plays any of the three hitting positions but has been introduced to the setter spot thanks to his all-around athletic abilities.

Winters helped spark Moon to its second win this year, a 3-1 section decision April 5 at Baldwin. He recorded 31 assists against the Highlanders.

“Bradyn has a lot to learn as a setter when it comes to how to run a game, but I thought he did well for his lack of experience in that position,” Nicola said. “He was all-section as a hitter last year and this was his first match as a ‘5-1’ setter.

“Our current plan is trying to work him back into setting and hitting, with Charlie Basil hitting and setting, as well. If we are going to succeed this season, Bradyn will be a big part of that whether he is setting, hitting or both.”

The 17-year-old Winters is well-diversified as a student-athlete. He has played basketball for years but turned his focus most recently to volleyball. He is a member of several clubs including the National Honor Society and Future Medical Professionals, and also participates in the Exile travel volleyball program, competing year-round in the gym.

Winters has a weighted GPA of 4.5 and an unweighted 4.0. He plans to major in neuroscience or molecular biology in college on a pre-med track.

“I have always wanted to go to an academically prestigious school that will make me work even harder than I already do,” Winters said. “Truthfully, I’m keeping an open mind, as I will know which school is right for me when the time comes. And I definitely would love to further my athletic career in college.”

Winters is a relative newcomer to volleyball competition but appears to have grown exponentially. He began playing at Moon last year as a sophomore and has competed as a middle blocker with Exile for two years, traveling to Columbus, Erie, Kansas City and other cities for tournaments.

“I hope to continue to develop as a player, athletically and mentally,” Winters said. “And I hope that our team can continue to win and build more of a bond.

“I would say, compared to previous years, we are on a completely different track. We are a young group that is continuing to develop together. We are working together and have started to connect in our game(s).”

The Tigers (2-2, 1-2), who won only twice all last season, hope to continue taking small steps forward in anticipation of landing that coveted playoff berth.

The main players in the starting rotation include Winters, sophomore outside hitter/setter Charlie Basil, juniors Raleigh Rickerd (OH), Luis Carrasquillo (libero) and Ben Molnar (MH), and seniors Gage Slide (RS), M.J. Smith (MH/RS) and Nick Lucarelli (MH).

All were returning starters this season except for Smith and Lucarelli, the two newcomers to the lineup. Winters, Rickerd and Basil were all-section selections a year ago.

“We are a small group and different leaders step up on different days,” Nicola said. ”We have been struggling to get our full roster together in the first couple weeks of the season due to injuries, illnesses and other things. We are hoping to fight through this and then continue to improve when everyone is back.”

Through four matches, Basil, Slide and Rickerd paced the squad in kills and Carrasquillo led in digs. Winters and Basil were the team leaders in the assists department, Rickerd led in aces and Molnar had the most blocks.

The Tigers’ front line can be eye-catching at times with Winters and the 6-5 Rickerd, 6-3 Smith and 6-2 Molnar stationed at the net area.

Nicola was presented last year with the inaugural ASICS/BSN Boys Volleyball Coach Award. He was nominated by his peers and selected on his merits in community involvement, dedication to his school, coaching philosophy, integrity and leadership.

Nicola, a teacher at West Allegheny, is assisted by Stephanie Benkowski.

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