Lackawanna Trail is the defending champion and Abington Heights is one of the early leaders in Lackawanna League high school boys volleyball, which got underway last week.
The Lions have many new faces on their roster after going 13-1 last season, then beating Western Wayne in a playoff to determine the league title.
Abington Heights has a new coach in Jamie Spangler, but three returnees helped the Comets go 2-0 to finish the first week in a three-way tie for the league lead.
A closer look at each team:
Seniors Devin Walsh and Richard Pollock are returning starters, but the only players with significant varsity experience for the Lions.
Walsh returns at middle blocker.
Pollock, the libero last season, is being used at different positions.
“We’re still tinkering with the lineup,” Lackawanna Trail coach Deb Joyce said. “We’re using him in the front row this year as well.
“He’s very versatile.”
Complicating matters for the Lions, who started 1-1, was the loss of a starter, senior outside hitter Wyatt Cooper, to a sprained ankle. Joyce is hoping Cooper may be able to return in a couple weeks.
Juniors Ryan Dill and Dillon Smith are two additions to the lineup.
“They both played AAU volleyball this winter and that helped them improve their games,” Joyce said.
Sophomore Aidan Holmes has also worked his way into the starting lineup.
Lackawanna Trail needed a comeback to defeat Mountain View, 18-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-17, 15-13, in its opener.
Walsh had 21 kills, Holmes had 20 assists and Dill had 16 assists in the win.
The Lions fell to Susquehanna, 26-24, 25-21, 26-24, in their second match.
Pollock has a team-high 52 digs in the first two matches.
Spangler, a 2005 graduate, returns to coach the team he played for in high school. He served as an assistant women’s coach at the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State-Greater Allegheny before returning to Abington Heights as girls coach in the fall.
“I’m trying to get more interest in volleyball in the area in general,” Spangler said. “I’ve talked to a couple other coaches. We’re in the early stages of talking about ways to get junior high programs started.”
Seniors Jake Roba, an outside hitter, and Mike Pettinato, a setter, are back for their third seasons as starters.
Kevin Schumacher, a junior libero, also returns.
Senior outside hitter Eric Washo, senior middle hitter Sean Albright and sophomore middle hitter Griffin Joyce have moved into the starting lineup.
Sophomores Jeremy Critchley, a defensive specialist, and Joe Deitzer, an outside hitter, are the key substitutes.
Roba had 29 kills and Pettinato had 28 assists when the Comets opened with a 25-15, 25-9, 23-25, 25-16 victory over Forest City.
Roba had 17 kills and 10 aces and Pettinato had 26 assists in a 25-9, 25-12, 25-4 romp over Blue Ridge.
“I think we have a pretty good shot at competing for the best team in the league,” Spangler said.
The Comets were 10-4 to finish third in the league last season.