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Senior captain Matt McSweeney and the Hand boys’ volleyball squad locked up a spot in the Class M State Tournament with a 3-1 win versus Amity on May 6. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Junior setter Jonas Bizier and the Tigers improved to 8-6 after winning two of their three matchups during last week’s action. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Jeremy Long and the Hand boys’ volleyball team are making gradual improvements as they strive to defend their SCC title this spring. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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The Hand boys’ volleyball team has been shuffling the deck by going with different starting lineups from match to match this season. However, the Tigers still have plenty of aces in the hole who can excel at multiple spots and are helping the club succeed on the court. Last week, Hand clinched a berth in the Class M State Tournament by earning a 3-1 victory over Amity on May 6.
Head Coach Marc Figlar’s team is coming off a year that saw the Tigers beat Cheshire to win their first SCC Tournament title en route to netting a record of 12-10. This year, Hand has a mark of 8-6 entering the home stretch of the regular season. After defeating Amity to make states, the Tigers swept Norwich Free Academy (NFA) by a 3-0 score on May 8, avenging a previous 3-2 defeat to NFA. Hand finished the week with a 3-1 loss against Masuk on May 10.
Coach Figlar said that even with all the mixing and matching, the Tigers are focused on defending their SCC crown and are taking the right steps to get there every day.
“With things like illnesses and people on vacation trips, we’ve had some inconsistency in our lineup. But our goal is to repeat as SCC champs, and I believe we have a good shot of doing it,” said Figlar. “Even with the [3-2] loss we had to Cheshire [on May 3], we feel good about our chances with them. I try to emphasize with the boys that it’s a journey, so another goal is to try different things during the regular season, so by the playoffs, we have things set.”
Hand features a pair of hitters leading the way as its captains this season. Matt McSweeney plays middle hitter and blocker for the Tigers, while fellow senior captain Jeremy Long is a utility man who mainly plays outside hitter. Figler said that both athletes do everything they can to help the Tigers without giving it a second thought.
“Matt is probably our best all-around player and leader on the team. He never complains, sets good examples, and can do anything. Most middle hitters don’t play every rotation, but he does play all around the court,” Coach Figlar said. “Jeremy is a very versatile player. He can set, but he’s mostly an outside hitter, and sometimes plays on the right. He helps shut down the opponent’s outside hitter. He also does different jobs and never complains.”
Returning senior Finn Sheehan is having a breakout campaign for the Tigers. Hand also has two juniors who are faring well in new roles this year. Jonas Bizier is a varsity newcomer who’s playing the setter’s position, and fellow junior Alex Crocker has stepped into the lineup as a middle hitter.
“Finn was an outside hitter for us last year, and he worked hard on improving in the offseason. He’s our most improved hitter, because he’s nearly doubled his kills from last year. He’s been a big help and a key to some of our wins,” Coach Figlar said. “Jonas is new to varsity and is learning the offense, but he’s done a solid job. Alex is still learning the pace of the varsity game in the middle. He’s improving well with his blocking and attacking.”
Bizier handed out 41 assists and had two aces when Hand sealed its spot in states by beating Amity last week. Sheehan had 16 kills with two aces, while McSweeney racked up 11 kills to go with seven digs and five blocks. Hand won the opening set by a 25-18 score, before the Spartans evened the match with a 25-17 second-set victory. The Tigers closed out the night by winning the third and fourth sets by 25-13 and 25-21 margins, respectively.
There are still some decisions to be made when it comes to how Hand’s rotation will shape up during postseason play. Coach Figlar said the Tigers will continue taking a piecemeal approach and look for improvements on a daily basis in their quest to peak in the playoffs.
“There is still competition going on for who will be the starters for the postseason. We are taking it one game at a time and getting better every game,” said Figlar. “We’ve learned a lot from good opponents in matches we’ve lost, and we’re progressing nicely. It won’t be easy to repeat in SCCs, but we emphasize with the boys about doing a little bit better each day.”
From the Sidelines
The Hand boys’ volleyball team has recorded two victories versus Shelton (3-1 and 3-1) and Amity (3-0 and 3-1), along with one win apiece against Westhill (3-0), Kolbe Cathedral (3-0), Xavier (3-1), and Norwich Free Academy (3-0) this season.
The Tigers have taken losses to Barlow (3-0), Newtown (3-0), Norwich Free Academy (3-2), Oxford (3-0), Cheshire (3-2), and Masuk (3-1).
Hand finishes its regular season with a match at Cheshire at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 17.
Marc Figlar is in his sixth year as Hand’s head coach. The Tigers’ assistant coach is Giovanni Meier.
The Tigers are one of five teams in the SCC, along with Xavier, Amity, Cheshire, and Shelton.
The semifinals of the SCC Tournament will be held on Wednesday, May 22. The final takes place on Friday, May 24 at 6 p.m.
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