The defending Section 1 Division 1 runner-up Scarsdale boys volleyball team came out looking like absolute fire against East Ramapo on opening day Monday. And while it wasn’t a perfectly clean match, it was a great starting point as Scarsdale, despite graduating six key players, has reloaded its lineup for 2021.
“Santiago [Gomez] was actually watching the games from last year and the first year and he told me there was a huge difference,” senior captain Gustavo Quaresma de Moura said. “He said the first year it seemed like gym volleyball, just bumping the ball over and over. The progress is incredible.”
This is only the fifth year Scarsdale has had a boys team as coach Jim Williams graduated his first batch of four-year players after last season. He, too, was pleased to see his big guns were pounding the ball to start the season.
“Most of them are just really excited to be able to get the chance to play,” Williams said. “We weren’t sure six weeks ago if we were going to play. The seniors especially are thrilled to come out here and play. “
Unlike past years when the team had a proper preseason and tournament to prepare for matches, this year it was six practices, a day off and then a match.
“This time we jumped straight into a game and it was different and I think everyone was nervous on the court,” Quaresma de Moura said.
That didn’t last long. “My first year on varsity we only got one win the entire season and last year we got a bunch of wins and we also went to the finals,” Quaresma de Moura said. “That felt amazing and this year we’re starting off strong and I think it’s going to be better than last season.”
In the 25-11, 25-14, 25-13 win, the Raiders had three very different types of games. The first was dominant, the second they were up 14-13 and then closed out the match 10-1 and in the third they went to the bench for a majority of the action and still won handily behind players like Tommy DiLorenzo, Jonny Lee, Cyrus Toosi, David Appel, Lee Kermanshachi, Julian Pavone and Ty Novenstein.
“That’s exactly what you want in a well-rounded team,” Gomez said. “No matter who is on the court you don’t want that lead to go down. It was good in a game where we had a wide point advantage to give everybody a chance to get those first jitters out. Later in the season we’ll play powerhouse teams like Suffern, who beat us in the finals last year. That’s going to be a lot more nerve-wracking. But we’re looking forward to that.”
Gomez put down 28 of the team’s 37 kills, setter Noah Weber made only two service errors in 30 attempts, while also having 23 assists, libero Ben Hoexter was strong in the back row and Quaresma de Moura was strong all-around. They played a majority of the first two games along with Tim Hill, Aaron Klein, Charlie Hirschhorn, Oscar Langford and Michael Kashanian.
“We’re missing a lot of hitters, which we had to develop during practice and we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare,” Hoexter said. “We miss our guys from last year. We have a lot of new guys this year, so it’s very fun to meet new guys and develop the program further.
“I think our strength is our serving. I think we’re very consistent. Noah went on a run, I got a few serves in. That’s really important because we saw we were able to find holes in the other team’s defense and we started picking at them. That helped us win the game.”
Gomez and Quaresma de Moura will be the team’s key hitters this season.
“Santiago is the big hitter,” Williams said. “He makes all the setters look good. Even if the set is off he goes and gets it and puts it down. Gustavo is the other big hitter, but he’s also our best setter. I’ll have him set from the back row, but I want his offense on the front row. Last year we had him setting all the way around.”
Williams is pleased with the improvement shown by Hoexter and Weber in filling key roles. “Ben Hoexter has come forward tremendously as a libero getting passes to the net and the serving has gotten stronger,” he said. “Noah Weber is the other setter and he’s getting there.”
He added, “The serves have gotten better. They’re strong and there’s more topspin. They’re putting the pressure on the other team before they’ve even gotten the ball.”
The Raiders are hoping to get senior David Lang — “The big lefty,” according to Williams — back from illness soon to add yet another weapon to the team’s arsenal.
“Once he gets cleared we’ll have a really strong player on that weak side who can hit,” Williams said. “That’s another strong player we should see real soon.”
There are a lot of younger, less experienced — though promising — players and Williams said his lone struggle is having enough time to help them get in sync with the rest of the team as many of them are struggling with their positioning.
“They’re getting in the way of the setter, they’re getting in the way of the back row hitter,” he said. “We almost had a collision with the middle hitter backing up into the back row hitter. Those are the kind of things over the next week, I hope, before we start getting into a little better competition, that we can start getting that cleaned up.”
The league this year features familiar foes East Ramapo, Clarkstown North, Clarkstown South, Suffern and Eastchester, but the faces on Scarsdale’s court have changed with the graduation of players like Jack Mintzer, David Peng, Justin Mandel, Ari Sontag, Dorji Phuntsho and Ethan Gates.
“Last year we had a lot of seniors and I feel like we definitely lost a lot of key players, but we had a really great season last year and I think that brought in a big pool of different players with a lot of natural talent this year,” Gomez said. “So far we’ve had only six practices, which is nothing, but I think we have a really good team and it’s looking good.”
The Raiders could not have been happier walking off the court after their first match.
“I think it’s a great starting point,” Hoexter said. “I definitely think we have points to improve on. In practice we’ll work on hitting and passing a lot. But I think it’s a great way to start. A win on the first day is a great place to start. The program is young, so to start on a high note is very good.”