By Jeff Appelblatt
There have been a few years over the last decade that Colts Neck High School’s boys’ volleyball team wasn’t one of the top teams to beat in the Shore Conference A North Division, but the Cougars are fighting for the top spot most seasons — including this one.
Fourteen-year coach Glenn Jansen won’t be around to see it, though. After coaching the girls’ basketball team at Colts Neck in the winter, he’s turned his spring-season focus to his son. Alex Jansen is in his final season playing baseball at Donovan Catholic High School.
“I want to be able to see my son play,” Glenn Jansen said. “This will likely be the end of baseball for him.”
Meanwhile, the volleyball players at Colts Neck didn’t lose focus. Former assistant coach Greg Hope took over the team, which rushed out to five wins in as many chances.
Four of the five victories were 2-0 shutouts, while Red Bank Catholic (RBC) High School made the Cougars play three games. After losing the opening game April 10 in Red Bank, Andrew Finnegan, Max Janniello, Nick Panicali, Timmy Wu and the rest of the squad bounced back and won two straight, 25-14, 25-14.
Finnegan, Panicali and Wu have been integral pieces to each Colts Neck victory. Finnegan, a junior, has led the Cougars in service points throughout the season. Panicali, a senior, has led the team in aces and kill. And Wu, only a sophomore, has led the team with nearly 12 digs per game, including the 22 he had against RBC.
It’s been a team effort for the Cougars, centered around junior setters Joey Lombardo and Zach Schaffer.
Colts Neck only saw two matches during spring break — vs. RBC and vs. Neptune High School — but they took the floor again as soon as the second day back at school ended. They traveled to face A North rival Marlboro High School (2-2).
Next up for the Cougars will be a 4 p.m. match April 19 in Colts Neck against Central Regional High School (3-3).
Hope hasn’t had any trouble making the switch to varsity after coaching many of the kids when they played junior varsity in past years.
“I have head coaching experience, so it wasn’t that difficult of a transition for me,” the coach said. “[And] the group of guys we had coming back played for me the last couple of years. They already knew me. They knew my style of coaching.”
Hope knew coming in that his newly acquired team won 20 games last year. Even though the club graduated seven players, his expectations were high.
“Every divisional match is tough,” he said before the contest with Central Regional — Colts Neck’s first of four matches in four days. “I’m trying to have the guys take it one game at a time.
“But my expectation is high for this team. This particular group, I think they could handle [playing four days in a row] physically. It’s my job to keep them focused.”