When Cynthia Hollies took over the Quince Orchard High School boys’ volleyball team three years ago, the previous coach told her it was good timing, she said, because with few returning players, she would be able to make it her own team.
Hollies kept a slew of freshmen that year, and a talented sophomore class. Now juniors and seniors, the cohesion built though two and three years playing together translated into one of the Cougars’ most successful seasons.
Though Quince Orchard (11-2), which went undefeated to win the Montgomery White Division, fell in three sets to traditional power Thomas S. Wootton in the second round of the Montgomery County tournament, the Cougars can still reflect on a statement regular season—they were one game shy of an undefeated campaign. And, Hollies said, with several key players set to return, she’s already excited about the prospects for next year.
The Cougars played in a 6-2 formation and were propelled this spring by the chemistry between their two setters: senior Andrew Yuan, a four-year varsity athlete, and junior Sungmin Joo. “They were very good about setting all positions, so it was a nice mix on offense,” Hollies said. “And they covered so well for each other. If one had to dig a ball out on defense, the other took over seamlessly into the setting role. … Sometimes teams have one or two big hitters and that’s who they always go to. (Our setters) did a nice job distributing.”
Quince Orchard did have two big middle hitters to rely on to end points quickly in 6-foot-4 senior Kyle Jameson and classmate Saul Sallah (6-2). And four-year varsity player Vishnu Balajee, the Cougars’ libero and defensive specialist, was a major calming factor on the floor, Hollies said.
Three years ago practices typically consisted of Hollies running drills, hitting the ball at her players and teaching them the basics. This spring, as the Cougars’ skills and volleyball IQ have progressed, they took on more responsibilities during practice and on game days. And it helped them become more perceptive of opponents’ strengths and weaknesses and how Quince Orchard should approach each game.
While the Cougars were disappointed in their early postseason exit, Hollies said she’s hoping the attention this year’s success garnered will help draw out more numbers to next year’s varsity tryouts as Quince Orchard will have some spots to fill following the graduation of six seniors.
“We’d hoped this was our year to go to finals,” Hollies said. “With no junior varsity team it helps if you pull in some freshmen. Every year I try to pick up one or two freshmen and try to make something out of them. Next year I’ll be looking for a bigger group.”