The boys’ volleyball program at Fenwick is still in its infancy, but this year there are significant signs that growth is on the way.

The program, entering into its third official year competing, has drawn the interest of a slew of athletic upperclassmen this season, says the team’s enthusiastic head coach John Zlabis.

“We’re senior dominated this year, and I’m carrying 15 players, which is not my style,” he said. “The thing is this is a group with a lot of athletic ability. They just need to get the fundamentals down and get a feel for the rhythm of the game.”

Helping nurture along the team’s new yet older players are returning starters Luis Hidalgo, Abel Gomez and John Cisek. Hidalgo will set for the Friars this season, as will Gomez, who was converted from a hitter last season. Cisek will play outside hitter.

Along with improving on last year’s dismal 7-17 overall record last year, the three returnees will face another proverbial challenge: Teaching a group of seven new seniors how to play the game.

“Most have never played organized volleyball in their lives, but have a basic understanding of it,” says Zlabis. “But some are so fresh, they are learning the difference between a bowling ball and a volleyball, so to speak.”

Zlabis insists it’s going to take time before his team starts playing well together.

“We’ll take our lumps, that’s for sure,” he says, “but I feel confident we’ll make some progress this season.”

The Friars, who lost their first two games of the season?#34;25-20, 25-11 to Leyden and 25-15, 25-11 to St. Ignatius?#34;are also set on improving their 3-6 Chicago Catholic League record. Zlabis is hoping guys like Marek Pura (middle blocker), Dan Logas (outside hitter), and Ryan Sullivan (outside hitter) will give Fenwick a boost this season.

“I see a lot of promise in all the new seniors,” he said. “They are all very coachable, so I think it will take some patience before we see some progress. We’ll take little steps and see what happens. We’re not exactly gunning for a State championship. That kind of success takes time, but we are definitely interested in making progress.”

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...