Wildcats should battle Abington and Mountain View for top spot

A new era for Western Wayne's boys varsity volleyball program officially begins Tuesday night.

For the first time in nearly two decades, Tim Snyder won't be at the helm as the Wildcats commence their latest title quest.

Last spring, the local lads posted a 9-3 Lackawanna League record and once again advanced to the District Two tournament, but were eliminated by North Pocono in the Class AA quarterfinals.

This year, the 'Cats are hoping to improve upon that performance under the direction of Darren Thorpe.

A veteran of the girls varsity program who's also the boys head basketball coach, Thorpe brings a wealth of experience with him to the table.

“I'm really excited for the opportunity,” said Coach Thorpe. “We have a nice nucleus of experienced players coming back and we've got good chemistry. I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do.”

Western Wayne is slated to open up its 2016 regular season campaign with a pair of home matches. The 'Cats will host Forest City Tuesday, then put out the welcome mat for Mountain View on Thursday.

Both contests are set for a 6 p.m. start at the venerable Varden Garden.

Stage set

Abington Heights and Mountain View were the class of the Lackawanna League last spring.

The Comets rolled to a title with an 11-1 record. The Eagles were right on their heels, though, going 10-2 and dealing Abington its lone loss.

Western Wayne notched nine wins, including an upset of Mountain View, and earned a place in the district tourney. The 'Cats will be looking to build on that success this year and advance beyond the Class AA quarters.

“We're bringing back four experienced starters and I have a lot of faith in them,” Coach Thorpe said. “So far, they're showing good leadership skills and setting an excellent example for the younger kids.”

Those four returning starters are: Colin Howe (Sr), Tyler Atcavage (Sr), Josh Hoch (Sr.) and Matt Trygar (Jr).

Howe and Atcavage will line up as middle hitters, while Hoch and Trygar are tentatively slated to share the setting duties. However, they'll also be expected to play key roles up front.

“We really don't have a designated setter this year,” Coach Thorpe said. “But, we have two kids who bring a great deal of experience and athleticism to the court. I have confidence in both Josh and Matt.”

Western Wayne will employ a 6-2 set this year, which seems well-suited to the team's strengths and the coach's philosophy.

“We definitely aren't the biggest team in the league, but we're very athletic and quick,” Thorpe said. “We don't let the ball hit the floor too often. Our kids work very well together.”

In action

As if to prove his point, Western Wayne turned in a stellar effort during a pre-season tournament at Dallas High School.

The Wildcats crossed paths with both Mountain View and Abington Heights at the event and more than held their own.

“We outplayed Mountain View and were even-up with Abington,” said Coach Thorpe. “Now, I understand it's a pre-season thing and you really don't know if they were at full strength. So, you take it with a grain of salt. Still, I'm very happy with how we played.”

Three other players also earned high marks from their mentor.

Jake Tinklepaugh is a junior who's entering his first full year of organized volleyball. A multi-sport star who also excels on the soccer pitch, Tinklepaugh is expected to make immediate contributions.

Parker Coons is another member of a talented junior class who had already nailed down a starting spot. Sadly, he suffered a broken wrist and likely won't be back until the final week of the regular season.

Jason Telese is still just a sophomore, but is already turning heads. While he'll start the season as a designated server, Telese is expected to contribute in other ways as the season progresses.

Over & Out

Darren Thorpe is setting ambitious goals for his team this spring.

Western Wayne should be right in the thick of the title chase, battling both Abington and Mountain View for the crown.

Lackawanna Trail and Elk Lake both struggled in 2015, but both teams return talented young players.

Blue Ridge and Forest City each recorded five wins last year and are looking to make a push into the upper echelon.

“Consistency is going to be key for us,” said Coach Thorpe. “We need to serve well and be aggressive. We aren't tall, but we have some big hitters.

“We have to pass well and our setters need to get comfortable in the offense. When that happens, I like our chances. We should be competitive with anybody.”