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Boys volleyball preview: Mater Dei's success has been fueled by skilled setter Zolg
Through the disappointment of what was his first year as coach of the Mater Dei boys volleyball program, Pat Connolly discovered the key to the eventual turnaround.
The only freshman on that team, in 2014, was setter Garrett Zolg.
“We originally had him on the junior varsity team,” Connolly said. “After that first week of practice, we realized that he belonged on the varsity court, based on his skills. He took that first year as a freshman to develop, running the offense and he took his lumps a little bit.”
Zolg continued his growth into the leadership role, leading the Monarchs to a share of the Trinity League title in 2015 and an undefeated Trinity League title last year.
“He has all of the intangibles of being a good solid captain and leader and not only through his skills, but how he addresses the guys,” Connolly said. “And he how gets his teammates to rally behind him.
“He has a great athletic mentality and he’s a competitor. At that time, he was the most competitive setter we had in the gym, so my thoughts were, if we’re going to develop a program and a team, that’s the guy you want to build your team around.”
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Zolg, who is headed to Loyola of Chicago, is one of five seniors on the roster who have all played a role in turning the program around.
“The key thing is you always have to stay hungry,” Zolg said. “You can’t be satisfied with what you have. Even though I was starting as a freshman, coming back as a sophomore, junior year and even this year, you have to stay hungry and keep trying to improve in the little parts of your game, whether you want to work on defense, serving, blocking, you always have to stay hungry.”
Senior libero Ty Keyes and outside hitter Joe Brown have both been on varsity for the last three years, all playing strong roles in the team’s success.
“He’s been the quarterback back there for our serve-receive passing,” Connolly said of Keyes. “He has a cool demeanor. He doesn’t get too high or too low. He’s a good calming presence back there.
“He’s (Brown) an undersized outside hitter and fortunately this year, we’re moving him to the left and he’s able to pass, he’s able to go out there and set up a good solid block. He’s always had good jumping ability, a Division 1 arm swing, and we’re going to relying on that heavy arm again this year.”
All three are focused on retaining the Trinity League title and have a longer stay in the CIF-SS playoffs. Mater Dei was eliminated in the second round two years ago and last year had a first-round exit.
“That’s been our biggest motivating factor,” Zolg said.
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