In the lion’s den

Varsity boys volleyball takes on the best team in the state

Senior+captain+and+forward+hitter+Nathan+Goestenkors+primes+to+drive+a+hit+across+the+net.+He+is+well+known+on+the+team+for+an+exceptional+hit-to-point+%28kill%2Fset%29+ratio.

Tyler Summers

Senior captain and forward hitter Nathan Goestenkors primes to drive a hit across the net. He is well known on the team for an exceptional hit-to-point (kill/set) ratio.

They were nervous, awaiting their expected annihilation. Yet, through all odds and a 6’10’’ opposing forward hitter, the varsity boys volleyball team held state number one Saint Louis University High to the very end of their loss last Monday in two sets – a highly-anticipated match that was far from a decisive loss for FHC.

With set one ending at a 25/17 loss, and the second an even closer 25/20, the team gained new confidence in their ability to topple a longtime Missouri giant in volleyball, SLU High. For senior captain and right forward hitter Nathan Goestenkors, it was a match to be proud of.

“We actually did better than we thought,” Goestenkors said. “Both sets we stayed right with them until 16-17 points, which is a pretty good portion of the game.”

Though it would appear that a loss in two of the three sets of a match shows an easy defeat, holding with a well-oiled machine like SLUH was a task in and of itself. Skill on both sides was high; everyone played at the top of their game throughout the focused serves, frenetic covers, fiery hits, and vertical blocks that made up each play.

“They have a lot of club experience together; a lot of us didn’t – some of us didn’t even play club volleyball. They’ve had a lot of mesh time, and they just play a lot of volleyball together, which is huge – to have that connection,” Goestenkors said. “It’s such a smooth type of play, that’s what it really is.”

Also focused on maintaining his cool through the match was junior and left forward hitter Connor McAfee.

“I didn’t feel as if we were stressed, I honestly felt like we were calm out there, just playing our game,” McAfee said. “There were some things that we really cleaned up. We were putting pressure on them with our serving, we were putting pressure on them with how we attacked the ball, bringing it over. A lot of the pipes I brought over they couldn’t really get to the setter, the center had to run to the ball and make a play out of something that was really nothing.”

“We know that when we get stressed out, we start getting worse, so there were times when we would get stressed out and they would go on their run of points, and we would get back together and say ‘yeah, we can do this,’ and not get stressed out like this,” Goestenkors added. “The stress level, when it rises, we just get worse, so we tried hard to keep our cool during the match out there – focus on focusing.”

One of the key outcomes of every volleyball match before the state circuit is new knowledge on where to improve, and where to reduce the errors that allowed top-notch schools like SLUH to slip ahead in both sets. For fellow senior captain and setter Max Jarus, improvement is key.

“I know we definitely have some things that we need to work on,” Jarus said. “We had a lot of missed blocks, so we’re going to work a lot on those.”

Goestenkors believes the errors made, and quite often the lack thereof, only served to show the possibility of future victory when state finally arrives.

“I feel like now, from thinking they aren’t beatable, to thinking we can beat them now. We can clean up the errors that happened, cover the spots that they kept hitting – they were hitting the same spots and we didn’t pick up on it until late in the game,” he said. “We can’t beat the height, but we can try to cover where we hit. There was one dude who kept hitting the same spot over and over again, so we’re going to try our best to immediately figure out where that is, and counter it.”

“We’re going to work on covering the spots they hit, and I can definitely say next time it’s going to be much closer of a match,” he added.

At the District qualifying tournament on the 15th-17th of May, the varsity team will eventually face Lafayette or SLUH, two of the best teams in the state, for a Final Four title and hopeful championship win.

“Our goal at the end of the season is always Final Four, and we need to take out SLUH to get there. We plan on doing that,” Jarus said.

McAfee is similarly confident in the team’s ability to continue pressuring the state’s best in the hopes of a state title, even after their two-set loss last Monday.

“I think it could turn out differently,” he said. “We have a dead week to focus, work hard, improve ourselves, so there’s some leeway and time to work on the things we need to work on. I feel like we could give them a run for their money.”