By Jeff Appelblatt
Even after his team became familiar with the win column, Woodbridge High School boys volleyball coach Jayson Calhoun is always eager to make his student-athletes better. One way for volleyball players to improve is to watch other teams in action. That was something Calhoun believed when he was coaching the girls team to the White Division Championship in the fall, and it’s something he wants the boys to agree with now.
The coach had a handful of followers make the trip to John F. Kennedy Memorial High School with him on the same day the Barrons defeated Perth Amboy High School, 2-0, to watch the Mustangs take on Colonia High School.
“Five kids came with me to that match,” the first-year boys coach said. “It was a sneak preview, too, for [April 12].”
That date was when Woodbridge took the short, 4-mile trip to Colonia to face one of its greatest rivals. Even though the Patriots were dropped, 2-0, by the Mustangs, Calhoun is one to preach that no opponent should be taken for granted.
One thing that Woodbridge’s coach has learned about his team through four matches is that many are still learning the game
“Connor Penrod is doing a great job for us. He wasn’t sure he wanted to play, but I’m happy we got him,” Calhoun said about the inexperienced junior. “And [senior] Sidney Pierre — I didn’t expect to use him a whole lot. But when he’s gotten in, he’s played tremendously. I’m happy with the way he’s learning the game.”
And others who were around last year before Calhoun took over are not only getting used to a new leader, but also to different positions on the floor.
“Last season, [Tim Nerney] was a middle blocker,” Woodbridge’s coach said. “This year, I moved him to outside hitter, and he’s doing a nice job.”
With the move, Nerney, a senior, already reached a season-high in kills converted.
The majority of the kills came during Woodbridge’s thrashing of Perth Amboy. He and fellow senior Davian Martinez smashed seven apiece back at the Panthers in the one-sided match the Barrons won, 2-0 (25-9, 25-11).
However, without the team’s main setup man, Calhoun knows things wouldn’t have looked so easy in the game against Perth Amboy or in the prior win against Roselle Catholic High School. Getting the ball to the right spot on the floor was Julian Sosa’s main job last year, but the team’s new coach wasn’t sure how well he could keep it up this year.
“I didn’t know if he could handle the workload,” Calhoun said. “But he’s handling the ball a lot better, and [he’s] doing a good job making decisions with the ball.”
As a result, Sosa has averaged more than 15 assists per outing for the Barrons.
It was never anything against his athletes — Calhoun just wasn’t sure if they were ready for his coaching style.
“I coach really hard,” he said. “I wasn’t sure how receptive they’d be to me.”
But it didn’t take much time for the coach to realize that his new club was ready for him.
“They listen to everything I have to say,” Calhoun said. “I’m always striving for perfection, and if we end up really good, I’m OK with that. Sometimes we’re good enough.”
In addition, Calhoun wasn’t sure how much he’d enjoy adding the boys volleyball team to his résumé alongside girls volleyball (he also coaches Woodbridge soccer and Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen baseball). But less than a month into the boys volleyball season, he’s happy with his latest decision.
“I wasn’t sure how it would be,” he said. “But I’m proud of the guys. Our first two losses were tough ones, but I was happy with the kids. They’ve been giving 100 percent, and that’s all they can control.”
Calhoun hopes his team is ready to give its all again when it gets back out of Woodbridge Township April 13, when it goes to J.P. Stevens High School for a 4 p.m. matchup with the Hawks.