Multi-sport athletes bring spark to Gateway volleyball

Sunday, April 4, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Gateway boys volleyball coach Phil Randolph has plenty of fresh faces on his team this season who bring athleticism from playing other sports.

That’s a positive considering the Gators only had a few players return after losing a large senior class that had its 2020 season canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The challenge for Randolph is to take that athletic ability and shape it into a volleyball team. They are in the early process of building, but the potential is promising.

“It’s a blessing to have kids that have an athletic discipline and know what it takes to succeed,” said Randolph, who’s entered his third season with the Gators. “The part that makes it challenging is taking that and molding it into volleyball. Gym class volleyball and real volleyball are two different games, so we just have to not let them hit that wall of frustration and let them know that it usually takes time to develop. But these guys are picking it up at a very fast rate.”

The experienced players returning are outside hitters Chris Lewis and Will Kromka and setter Ryan Bozicevic.

Randolph said Lewis swings as hard as anyone he’s seen from the outside and has the potential to play in college. Kromka injured his wrist during the basketball playoffs and will miss the start of the season but is expected to return. Randolph praised Bozicevic’s work ethic that’s led to improvement on his jump serve as well as his passing.

Then there are the new faces.

Drew Holmes, a two-time WPIAL swimming champion and PIAA medalist, will slot in at middle hitter. JT Taylor, a Notre Dame (Ohio) football recruit, brings leadership as a former captain on the Gators football team. Taylor is a middle hitter. Sam DiPalma comes to the team from swimming and is an opposite hitter. Aiden Colberg has been a wrestler and swimmer at Gateway and is a defensive specialist. Gabriel Sha, a swimmer and soccer player, is an outside hitter.

All of them are out for the team for the first time and have impressed with their ability to adapt to volleyball.

“I think there’s reason to be optimistic, because all of these guys know how to work hard,” Randolph said. “We have some that are going to play football in college and another that is going to be a Division 1 swimmer. If things play out the way they should, I think we can be a nice surprise.”

DiPalma, Taylor, Anthony Brown, Ryan Szekely and Ryan Tandoc are the Gators’ seniors.

Gateway is in Section 2-AA with perennial powers Derry and Deer Lakes as well as Mars and Plum. Summit Academy was also slated to be in the section, but opted out for 2021.

“I feel like we’re going into it somewhat blind considering we didn’t have a season last year, but we know the kind of program Derry has,” Randolph said. “Even back when I was playing volleyball at Hempfield in the early 2000s, Derry was the team that was used as a measuring stick. I think that winning mentality is important to have in your back pocket. They are at the top of our list, because they are a polished program.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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