Hopes were high, and confidence abounded.
Although the 2020 Cathedral High School boys volleyball season didn’t happen, Irish boys volleyball coach Rhonda Low said she’ll remember the team – and its players – fondly.
This was a group with strong leadership and team-oriented players, a team capable of big things.
Low said she’ll remember that much about the group – and more.
“We weren’t individually the best team in the state, but we had a chance to be the best team in the state,” Low said. “We know individually don’t have the top, top guys, but we embrace that. We were very excited about their team effort. The preseason dedication was better.”
Irish boys volleyball, like all Indiana high school spring sports, had its 2020 season canceled by regulations addressing Covid-19. Low said the Irish had worked hard enough to have a good feeling about what was to come, then sporting events around the nation on all levels began being postponed in mid-March.
All high school Indiana spring sports were canceled in early April.
That meant the end of some memorable high school careers for five Irish senior volleyball players who Low said formed the core of the ’20 team’s leadership group.
“We’ve got pushers and leaders, so we had guys who were pushing to get on the court and awesome leadership,” Low said of the Irish seniors.
*Sam Mcentire, a third-year varsity player, third-year captain and third-year setter. “His leadership is awesome,” Low said. “I remember taking him aside his sophomore year and saying, ‘How would you like to be the setter of the program?’ He said, ‘I’ve never set before in my life.’ I told him, ‘Not a problem. We’ll teach you.’ He’s worked hard and communication has always been good with him.”
*Edwin Perez, defensive specialist. “We brought him up last season to go to the postseason with us,” Low said of Perez. “He was flat-out killing the defense.”
*Will Snyder also a defensive specialist who played many positions coming up but was settling into his DS role. Will was a great athlete and was also a member of the football team.
*Joe Khonwai, outside hitter who could play front and back row – “and basically where he was needed.” “His team play set him up for a good season,” Low said.
*Gabe Landeros, middle hitter. A shoulder injury caused him to give up baseball and return to the Irish volleyball program. “He has great leadership skills,” Low said. “It’s just a family thing. We were very excited to have him back in the program.”
Low said she liked the overall approach of this group, and liked the work ethic it showed during preseason practices. The Irish were scheduled to play Roncalli the day after the pandemic originally postponed the season, a match that Low said would have been the first sign of how the ’20 Irish compared to the state’s top programs.
“We were one practice from opening with the yardstick we wanted to see,” Low said. “It was 50-50, I think, between Roncalli and Fishers was where most coaches were looking for the state champion this year.”
Low said she believed the Irish could have showed those coaches differently, and she designed the ’20 schedule with that in mind.
“Our total schedule was for this group of guys to get in the championship match,” Low said. “We would be the dark horse. We schedule year by year, and I was able to mirror the time and effort of what they would have to do at the end of the year. We were in the right place at the right time – although the virus should have stayed over there, but it came over here.”
Low said, too, that the senior class set a tone for the program during its time at Cathedral.
“These guys have played club for us, and they’ve been around a long time,” Low said. “They’re a group that they would always show up. That’s half of winning: Just show up. That in itself has touched my heart, that they weren’t players who came when it was convenient.
“They were mostly there and they kind of grew on you.”
The cancelling of the season, as was the case for all Irish spring sports, was emotional and difficult. Low said as was the case with all the school’s canceled programs, boys volleyball players handled the situation with maturity and perspective.
“That’s true to very man in the program,” Low said. “When I called Sam when the news came down, he said, ‘I was preparing myself. I was afraid of it, but we can’t play and endanger people.’ It’s truly a life lesson that reminds everybody, ‘You put yourself in the right position. You do everything right and you’re right there and out of your control it’s taken away from you.’
“What do you do? Do you melt down and stop or do you set new goals and go, ‘OK?’ That’s what we’ve been doing with the guys.’’