Changes in Boys’ Volleyball Starting Lineup

Oak Park High School boys’ volleyball team makes changes.

After the loss of most of last season’s varsity starting lineup, the Oak Park High School boys’ volleyball team has adjusted and made the necessary changes to begin their newest season.

At the end of each year’s season, the starting lineup for the varsity team changes because it is often primarily composed of seniors. This forces the team to work and adjust to the new dynamic while also honing their skills and practicing for games. Between last season and the current one, team members Adam Parks, Alex Parks, Grigory Manyak, Sean Fitzpatrick, Daniel Aviezer, and Ian Sears from the starting lineup have all left.

The term “starting lineup” refers to the players on the court at the start of each game, which comprises six people. When the lineup changes from year to year, so do the positions that athletes play in.

“So there’s two outside hitters, an opposite, two middle blockers, one libero and a setter. A libero and a middle blocker are essentially the same player, but the middle blocker is usually much taller. [The middle blocker] will jump up in the front row, while the libero always plays back,” senior and varsity player Itay Dvir explained.

This year, the varsity starting lineup is made up of newer players with the exception of senior Tim Baldwin. Dvir has also joined the starting lineup for the season.

“It was a completely new team [and a] new coach. We definitely changed — there was a whole new system to learn, but the transition’s been going pretty well,” Dvir said.

The changes to the lineup require the newer players to adopt the same level of training and mentality as the seniors before them. The varsity team has currently lost three matches at this point in the season.

“This year we lost about 12 of our varsity players so we took a hit. We’re looking to bounce back though,” sophomore Chip Baldwin said. “We’re replacing seniors with juniors and sophomores so those people need to get into a mindset of higher-level volleyball.”

As in other sports, though there may be set positions, every player has an individual style that varies from person to person. When team members change, everyone has to adjust to the differences in playing styles and mentalities.

“For the setter, for example, I played with Adam Park during my sophomore year — he makes everyone around him look great. The stats are there but his impact goes beyond the numbers,” Dvir said.

Another aspect to the change in lineup is that of figuring out where to go. As in other sports, with each change in team member, comes the need to find the rhythm of how to move with others around. One year’s team may have an entirely different system of movement than that of the previous year.

“This year, again, I’m hitting with Nate, but there are other people around me so I have to figure out where to go because there could be a lot of collisions during volleyball,” Dvir said. “The ball’s in the air, everyone is trying to get the best position to hit the ball, but the biggest change is that you have to get to learn the players.”

Team members say they have gradually adjusted back to their comfort zone while playing and getting a feel for each person’s dynamic.

“It’s been good. I think we have some very experienced players and some new players. It’s definitely something that you have to work on –– it comes about with practice and practice and practice –– and we’ve been improving,” Dvir said.

The team hopes to go far this season, and plans to continue to improve and adjust.

“Game after game, day after day, practice after practice, because it’s definitely a challenge to start off. Everyone is colliding, everyone doesn’t know when to jump, and that’s a problem, but that’s why we start early February, so when the season started, we were kind of ready to go,” Dvir said. “Everything is still improving — we’re trying to build up to league, build up to CIF.”