by Andrew Garda

It’s been a long season so far for the 2019 Montclair High School boys volleyball team, which is still looking for their first win of the season after Saturday’s loss to McNair.

The match was a winnable one, as the 5-5 Cougars weren’t the strongest opponent they have faced, but the now 0-9 Mounties could never really get into a rhythm for very long as they dropped straight sets, 25-17 and 25-16.

“Certain things you can’t make them do,” said head coach Pam Reilly after the game. “You can’t make student athletes have desire. You can’t make them have heart and you can’t make them have hustle either. You can put them in game situations and drills and make them run during practice, but obviously it’s not translating to a match.”

MHS fell behind early in both sets, but were able to claw their way back into the game with several runs of five or six points. Unfortunately, every time Montclair would get to within striking distance of McNair, they would make a mistake which cost them possession of the ball, a point and momentum.

Too often, a stolen point would be followed by a mis-hit serve into the net.

The biggest issue for the Mounties at this point appears to be communication, something which was in stark relief when you compared the Cougars to Montclair.

Whereas MHS often lulled into stretches of silence, where lone senior Steven Sefjack was trying to rally the players, McNair was in almost constant conversation, chattering both when responding to Mounties hits and when they were setting up their own shots. They were almost never quiet, even when Montclair was able to string several points together in a row.

While Montclair, even during those moments, only spoke briefly and not at all often.

“This is a highly communicative sport. They don’t talk to one another. And when the chips are down, that’s when we want to be the most silent,” Reilly said. “But that’s when you want to be the most communicative. When things aren’t going well.”

Montclair didn’t talk enough and the results were predictable. A ball would fall with two players watching, neither calling out for it.

Another problem Montclair had was over-hitting the ball.

“Sometimes we hit the ball like we’re going to score eight points on one hit,” Reilly said. “You have to live to play another point. You want tp slam the ball to the floor instead of finding a good location that will get us either something we can predict or a free ball. But we want to get a kill right away.”

The lack of patience leads to over-hitting the ball, and more mistakes.

“We’re 0-10, so we’re impatient,” she said. “We want to win, so we’re pressing too hard.”

While the outcome against McNair was disappointing, the Mounties don’t have a lot of time to dwell on it. They play 6-5 Payne Tech on the road Monday afternoon and 3-5 Belleville on Wednesday at home.

Reilly will continue to work with them, and get them to buy into what she knows will help them get that first win, but she needs her team to execute.

“If you don’t have the desire, if you’re fearful, there’s really nothing that a coach can do for you,” she said. “We can tell you where to be, we can train you on technique, but you have to show up and perform. “