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Nipmuc Volleyball Wins Playoff Opener

Members of the Nipmuc Boys Volleyball team includes athletes from Valley Tech. The coop effort is new this year and has breathed new life into the team who is the playoffs. Members of the team, l-r, are: Front Row: Sean Kelleher #7, Zach Dawson #15, Mark Jango #4, Dante Trombino of BVT, and #2, Jake Szymko. Back Row: Coach Brian Gerard, Justin Balancs-Hawkes of BVT #22, Matt Benoit #18, Cameron Mcculloch #13, Noah Puchovsky #19, Lucas Vanslette #25, Taber Grose of BVT #24, Jonas Walter #14, David Stearns of BVT #20, Tom Cavanaugh of BVT #21, Hayden Curley #11, Ben Evans #17, Dylan Applegate #16 and Coach Yoeun Sim. Nipmuc photo


The Nipmuc boys volleyball team reached new heights this season with a first-round postseason victory over Worcester Doherty, an exclamation point on a strong season for the still-young program.
"It's been a pleasure to watch," said head coach Brian Gerard. "That's my goal, teach the kids how to play, then sit back and enjoy watching them play. It's been that kind of year."
Nipmuc has received a boost from an influx of Blackstone Valley Tech players, and the first season for the co-op program has been a rousing success. The Warriors finished the regular season 16-4 and showed steady improvement throughout the year, Gerard said. The head coach highlighted his team's series with Milford as an example. The Scarlet Hawks beat Nipmuc early in the season, but three weeks later, the Warriors came back with a straight-set win.
"We had just improved so much in that short period of time," Gerard said. "They were close matches, but the improvement was phenomenal on our side of the ball."
Nipmuc has seen contributions from its starters all season long. Senior captain Zach Dawson has quarterbacked the offense as the squad's setter. Fellow captain Lucas Vanslette has proven to be a dominant hitter, Gerard said. Valley Tech sophomore Taber Grose is the team's leader in kills, Gerard said, and senior Ben Evans has also been a consistent cog as an outside hitter.
Senior Mark Jango returned to the team as the libeiro and has been a "staple" in the back row, Gerard said.
"He makes incredible digs, passes every free ball, and he is dominant on the serves he sees," Gerard said. "I don't know why team's keep serving to him, but they do. He is quick as a cat, and has excellent instincts."
Senior Matt Benoit, sophomore Jonas Walter, and senior Jake Szymko have provided Nipmuc with depth at the middle blocker position. Valley Tech junior Dante Trombino has used his jump serve to the team's advantage all season long, Gerard said.
Heading into this week's second-round playoff game with Leominster, Gerard hailed the progress for his team compared to a season ago, when they lost in the first round.
"We have taken some big steps forward as a program," Gerard said. "It's been a lot of fun."




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