Curley's first serve at volleyball is an ace, even if team is 1-12

ON HIGH SCHOOLS

October 12, 2007|By MILTON KENT

For three years, basketball held the exclusive key to Zach Scarbath's heart, athletically speaking, of course. However, for the past two months, hoops has given him permission to see other sports.

Oh, Scarbath plans to go back to basketball once Archbishop Curley's season starts, but, for now, he's enjoying the courting phase he's in with volleyball, even with the Friars' 1-12 season, because the two sports have so much in common.

"Believe it or not, I never knew that there are a lot of plays involved [in volleyball]," said Scarbath, a senior. "It takes a lot of agility and quickness to get the ball and a lot of hustle, just like basketball."

When Curley athletic director William Dawson announced at the end of the last school year that the school would field a volleyball team this year, the wheels were put in motion for guys like Scarbath to rally for school spirit, to play a sport that they were unfamiliar with.

All but one of the 16 players on the roster played basketball, hockey, tennis, soccer and lacrosse, but put those aside temporarily to help form Curley's first volleyball team in school history.

"We've got a pretty good mix with a lot of athletes," said Joe D'Adamo, who coaches the team along with his son, John. "Athletically speaking, we're in pretty good shape. Our biggest problem is obviously the experience."

Indeed, the Friars have taken their lumps this year against tradition-laden Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association teams who not only have players who have come through the volleyball ranks in club or AAU settings, but also have the cohesion that comes with playing together for years.

"We've faced teams that I knew we could jump as high as, that we were just as quick as, and we were just as agile as," D'Adamo said. "But we didn't know the game as well, and that's been the learning curve. These guys are really into it, where we're just learning."

D'Adamo, who coached the Towson Catholic girls volleyball team in the late 1970s, said he and his son have used timeouts during matches as quick teaching sessions, to show the Curley players the finer points of the game.

The results have been understandably mixed. The Friars, who play in the MIAA's B Conference, didn't win a game until their 10th match, but have had close matches against, for instance, Archbishop Spalding, the second-place team in the B Conference.

"Every game, we see what we're doing wrong and what we should be doing right," said Marc Lukianczuk, a sophomore. "We watch other teams while they're playing. We learn a lot from the other teams and by playing each other in practice to see what each other needs to learn and where we are mentally and physically."

Their scrappy, can-do approach comes straight from the quietly effective D'Adamo coaching tandem. Both the father and the son are Curley alumni, and Joe, a longtime lacrosse assistant coach, was more than happy to take on the task of coaching volleyball, even if it had been nearly 30 years between assignments.

"Joe's enthusiastic," Dawson said. "The boys have always related well to him. He wasn't all hard-nosed or tough. With a new sport, hard-nosed and tough with no fun can kill it the first year. Word travels fast."

With all the losing and unfamiliarity with the sport, it would be totally understandable if interest among the Curley players were flagging at this stage of the season, when fun seems out of the question.

To the contrary, chances are good that you've never seen a happier 1-12 team in your life. As the season enters its second half, the players figure they can get a few literal victories, to go along with the moral ones they've been collecting.

If they can string enough wins together, they think they have a chance to make the conference playoffs this year. And down the road, with a core of talented young players in tow such as Lukianczuk, who also plays basketball, and two other sophomores, Ryan Mulqueen and Stefon McCray, the future of Curley volleyball could be strong.

And how cool would that be, considering where things were when the season started?

"The first day of practice, we could barely get the ball over the net," Scarbath said. "Now, we're consistently getting it over. [Monday], we played well with an A Conference team, Calvert Hall. We kept up with them pretty well. I don't think we could have done that the beginning of the year. Everybody has stepped up their game from the beginning of the season. [In a couple of years], we could have a pretty good team."

But would that be enough for volleyball to entice Scarbath away from basketball?

Uh, no.

"I love volleyball, but basketball is my sport," Scarbath said with a laugh. "I've got to stay with basketball."

That's to be expected. After all, a guy never forgets his first love.

milton.kent@baltsun.com

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