Western Wayne boys looking to bounce back on the volleyball court

After a long run of success at both the league and district levels, Western Wayne has struggled recently in boys volleyball action.

Coach Darren Thorpe’s squad went 4-8 last year after a 5-7 performance the previous season. The last time the Wildcats qualified for the playoffs was 2016.

This spring, though, the ‘Cats are off to a solid start having split their first two matches of the Lackawanna League campaign.

The local lads opened with an impressive 3-0 shutout of Elk Lake, but then absorbed a 3-1 loss at the hands of Forest City.

“We only have two seniors, so we’re a pretty young team,” said Coach Thorpe. “Athletically, I think we can compete with anyone out there. If we can clean up some of the mental mistakes, we should be right in the middle of things.”

Weather permitting, Western Wayne will be back on the court Thursday at home versus Blue Ridge. The Raiders went 9-3 last year and won their season opener 3-0.

Action gets underway at 6 p.m at the venerable Varden Garden.

Ready to Roll

Western Wayne opened up its 2019 campaign with two non-league matches.

District Two is relying heavily on power rankings this year, so it’s very important to schedule the best competition available.
Toward that end, the Wildcats squared off with Tunkhannock and Pocono Mountain East in Week One.

And, while both matches resulted in losses, Coach Thorpe believes his team is on the right track. The local lads were blanked by the Tigers, but they took the Cardinals to five sets before finally succumbing.

“It’s good experience for our kids, plus win or lose, playing bigger schools helps us in the rankings,” he said.

Leading the way this season is a trio of talented players that provides the nucleus of a potentially formidable squad.

Jake Ortola is a battle-tested senior and a bona fide force at the net. He’s a multi-sport standout who also excels on the soccer pitch.

“Jake is a smart player,” Coach Thorpe said. “He sees the floor really well and doesn’t force things. Jake is athletic and he’s a lefty, which gives him a little bit of an advantage up front.”

Ortola leads Western Wayne in digs (26) and is also among the team’s top performers at the net and the service line.

Thomas Motichka is a junior and returning Lackawanna League All-Star at setter. He’s a fiery competitor who doesn’t back down from anyone.

“Pretty much everything we do starts with Tommy,” said Coach Thorpe. “There’s no fear in him. Tommy makes things happen on the court and he’s a good leader.”

Motichka leads the team in aces with 14 and also makes his presence at the net. He’s already handed out 53 assists this spring.

Matt Henneforth is one of the best all-round players in the region. He earned Lackawanna League All-Star status as a frosh and appears poised for a breakout season.

“I’m expecting big things from Matt,” said Coach Thorpe. “He’s loaded with talent. If Matt stays focused and keeps working hard, he could be one of the best players we’ve ever had here.”

Henneforth has already piled up a team-best 41 kills. He also has six aces and 15 digs to his credit thus far.

Looking Ahead

Western Wayne traveled to Delaware Valley just before the regular season began.

There, the Wildcats competed in a round robin tournament against some of the area’s top teams.

“I liked what I saw from our kids,” Coach Thorpe said. “We have good chemistry and good balance. The potential is definitely there for us to have a successful season.”

The event also gave Western Wayne an early peek at some of the teams it will encounter in the league this year.

“We saw Abington Heights, Susquehanna and Blue Ridge,” Coach Thorpe said. “They are definitely good, but I think we match up with them pretty well.”

The Comets cruised to another league title last year with an 11-1 record. Forest City and Blue Ridge tied for runner-up honors with identical 9-3 marks.

Western Wayne wound up fifth at 4-8, but the veteran Wildcat mentor believes this season’s championship chase will go right down to the wire.

“I don’t think any team is head and shoulders above anybody else,” said Coach Thorpe. “Things are pretty even this year. I’m excited to see what we can do.”