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Last updated: April 12. 2014 12:50AM - 3002 Views
By Tom Fox For The Times Leader



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NANTICOKE — It’s one of those odd statistics that even shocked Debbie Gavin a little.


The veteran head coach for the Nanticoke volleyball program, Gavin can’t really explain it too much. Honestly, though, she probably doesn’t give much thought, either.


Look at the last seven years for her Trojan boys’ spikers.


Odd numbers years? Good luck.


Even numbers? Not so much.


In 2009, 2011 and 2013, Nanticoke has had winning campaigns – qualifying for the district playoffs in 2009 and 2013, only to lose to power Holy Redeemer in both years.


The same can’t be said for 2008, 2010 and 2012.


All losing seasons – including just two wins in 2012.


Could you have blamed Gavin if she cringed just a tad entering 2014? Would the curse of an even-numbered year show its nasty face again?


Gavin just laughed.


“I’m not superstitious at all,” she said. “Honestly, I never even realized that before.”


With the way the Trojans are playing thus far in 2014, you can also kick that pattern to the curb as fast as everyone wanted to kick Old Man Winter out of the region.


Gavin’s group is 4-1 in the Wyoming Valley Conference, and appears to be heading toward a district playoff berth should the ship keep sailing in the direction it is now.


As for the pattern, it’s hard to explain.


Merely just a mind-boggling statistic, she said.


One not to fuss over very much, she assures.


“For us, it all depends on who comes out for the boys’ volleyball team,” Gavin said. “Spring sports like baseball and track tend to draw more numbers here at Nanticoke. For us, it was all about the numbers and the athletes.”


Hindsight is 20/20, or so they say.


If you take a quick glance back to last season’s District 2 Class 2A quarterfinal with Holy Redeemer, you can see Gavin had a nice, young nucleus of talent waiting in the wings.


Playing without its leading attacker John Pietrzyk, the Trojans managed to hang strong with the Royals – who advanced into the state semifinals before bowing out to eventual champion Northeastern out of District 3.


“I don’t think that one game can make a season or determine the next season,” Gavin said. “I honestly believe it’s about hard work and practice. If you practice hard for several hours and you give it 100 percent all the time, you are going to see that good things can happen. When we get to the playoffs, we always manage to lose our seniors to the annual senior class trip. And that’s OK because you know that is going to happen. It’s just the timing that both fall at the same time.”


The experience of that season-ending loss to Redeemer, though, has paid off in the early part of 2014.


The Trojans are tied for third in the league behind undefeated Redeemer and Coughlin, and are coming off a strong showing at the Tunkhannock Tournament.


And the core is young and learning each game.


Setter Eddie Lukowski is only a sophomore.


Leading attackers Robert Burke and Matt Winters are juniors.


And that’s not counting the contributions of 6-foot-4 outside hitter Brent Piontkowski.


“I know most of these kids since first grade,” Gavin said, “so I know these kids well. They are a great group to be around. The word I would use to describe this team is well-rounded. We lost a few important seniors off last year’s team, and we will miss their leadership. But we are pretty solid. We have good hitters, good passers and one of the best setters in the league. They are all nice athletes and good students.”


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