Montclair High School boys volleyball looking for a little consistency with young squad
Montclair's boys volleyball team's success might be determined by how the Mounties perform in the middle of May as opposed to the middle of April.
As of last week, Montclair was 2-3, with two of the losses coming at the hands of the favorites in their division, the Super Essex Conference Liberty Division, and to Belleville, which is in the SEC's top division, the American.
This season the Mounties’ roster includes 16 sophomores among the 21 players who returned from the 2022 team that went 9-8. Seven of the 16 sophomores saw varsity minutes as freshmen, while the rest played on the junior varsity squad.
Montclair head coach Pam Reilly said that youth equals potential and inconsistency, and that has shown in the defeats.
"Our team has shown great potential in our early matches, but we are still finding our groove," Reilly said. "We have a very balanced attack but need to be more consistent and minimize our unforced errors."
For most of the volleyball players, the sport is their second sport. "One goal is to develop our second-sport guys into solid volleyball players," the coach said.
Despite losing to East Orange and West Caldwell Tech, Montclair gets another shot at both teams later in the season in the battle for the Liberty Division title, on May 8 at home against East Orange (4:15 p.m.) and on May 15 at West Caldwell Tech (4 p.m.).
So far for Reilly, the team played its best against Belleville in the opener, falling in three games, 19-25, 25-22, 20-25. "It’s always a good feeling to compete with the teams in the upper division of the conference," she said. "It’s like a measuring tool to give you an idea where you might fare in your division and possibly later during tournament time."
The top players returning are junior Samuel Korenbaum and senior Matthew Sefjack, who collected All SEC Liberty Division second-team honors in 2022.
Korenbaum is a potent outside hitter who is one of the top offensive weapons for the Mounties as well as a top server.
"He has added a deadly jump serve this season," Reilly said. "Although he spent some time at right side last year, he was one of our primary outsides.
“Sam’s hitting has improved, but we are still working on his decision-making and shot selection. He plays with a reckless abandon that is good but sometimes gets him in trouble. A good passer, I am looking for more from him defensively as well."
Sefjack is the team's lone senior. His direction is an important part of the game on the floor. He has been the team's top setter the last couple of years.
"He has worked on his floor leadership and is reading matchups a lot better," the coach said. "He is more confident and more vocal, which is what I want from my setters.
“He puts up a clean, hittable ball and is more consistent than he was last season. I would like to see tougher serves from Matt, which will help him out defensively."
Another top returning player, a member of that sophomore group, is Logan Martinez, who was named to the All Liberty honorable mention list last season. Defense and passing are his game, and he has improved on his serve, Reilly said.
"A solid defender last season, he is off to a good start with 20 digs," the coach said. "Logan is that guy that wants a hitter to come his way. He has a tricky jump float serve and is working on perfecting the location. Logan is a cerebral player with a high volleyball IQ, despite it being his second sport."
One of the few volleyball-only players is outside hitter Benjamin Welsh, who is one of the team's top servers and offensive players. For his work he was named as the Super Essex Conference Player of the Week for the week that ended on April 8.
"He is completely dialed in and has aspirations of playing at the next level," Reilly said. "The phrase ‘To whom much is given, much is required’ was Ben’s story last season. An outside hitter by right, he volunteered to play wherever we needed him."
In the middle are two key players, again sophomores, Nnamdi Emehulu and Patrick Reesch.
Emehulu leads the team in hitting percentage at .343. "He loves to learn the nuances of the sport, and you can see it in his eyes when he has figured things out," the coach said. "Once he has grasped the concept, he quickly looks to apply what he has learned.
“He has been receiving a lot of attention and praise from opposing coaches and officials. He is a force at the net when attacking or defending."
Reesch was second on the team in blocks and fourth in kills. "He is a member of the boys basketball team but has a volleyball bloodline," Reilly said. "Patrick has been seeing the bulk of his duty at middle hitter but has worked some rotations on the right side as well. He is moving much more fluidly in transition, and we have high expectations for him."
In addition, junior setter Chris Borden, sophomore right side Nicolas Carillo and sophomore libero/defensive specialist Nathaniel Sena are all expected to be major contributors in the rotations.
Montclair Boys Volleyball Schedule
(Matches at 4 p.m. unless noted)
April 20 Irvington, 4:15 p.m.
April 22 at Bloomfield Invitational, 8:30 a.m.
April 24 at Orange
April 25 Essex County Tournament, TBD
April 27 Essex County Tournament, TBD
April 28 Newark Vocational, 4:15 p.m.
May 3 at Piscataway
May 5 Nutley, 4:15 p.m.
May 8 East Orange, 4:15 p.m.
May 10 at Barringer
May 11 at Hackensack
May 13 Hackensack, 10 a.m.
May 15 at West Caldwell Tech
May 17 West Orange, 4:15 p.m.