The varsity volleyball team brought home its first MIAA Championship since 2006 in an intense 3-2 victory over Loyola Blakefield on Nov. 4 in the MSJ Smith Center. They battled back from a 1-2 deficit to defeat the Dons for a third time this season.
Outside hitter Roger Fredrickson ’25 notched a season-high 27 kills, and team captain Josh Churko '23 added 5 aces. Captain and libero Felipe Romo ’23 anchored the back row with 16 digs. Setters Ryan Loetell ’23 and Justin Leach ’24 combined for 46 assists and 3 aces. Gabe McWhite '24 and Mike Zaccagnino '23 put up walls on the right side, totaling 6 block points with assists from middles Gregor Lesho '24 and Aidan Chairs '24.
The Gaels had a record season, racking up the longest consecutive set win streak with 29 sets in a row and setting the record for most sweeps in a season at 15, including a playoff win over Calvert Hall. Their overall record of 19-1 marks the best-ever finish for an MSJ volleyball team. And for the first time in school history, the team saw five different players record more than 100 kills each on the season (Roger, Aidan, Josh, Gabe, and Mike).
Head Coach Sam Bianco ’01, who just completed his 18th season coaching the Gaels, says, “I believe that the best and most successful teams in athletics are often those able to overcome adversity, and this team certainly showed resiliency and versatility throughout the season. We dealt with an unprecedented number of injuries and illnesses this season. We only had two matches in which all 13 players on the roster were available. Most of our players became accustomed to playing multiple positions; we even had one player play five different positions this season. We were so depleted for a two-week period that our manager was practicing with us, and he did a heck of a job.
I’m proud of the fact that no matter who was on the court this season, we held ourselves to the same, agreed-upon standards we set for ourselves in the summer. I’m proud of our players for what they accomplished this season, but I’m also proud of the program we’ve built over the years. This team is made up of players and coaches who understand the mission of the school and represent the best of MSJ, and that’s special."
At the conclusion of the season, four players were selected to the All-MIAA First Team–Felipe, Roger, Aidan, and Josh–which is the most from any one team in the league. Felipe was also unanimously chosen as the 2022 Player of the Year, and Coach Bianco was named Coach of the Year.
The varsity volleyball team has finished first in the regular season three out of the last four years and looks forward to building upon that legacy of excellence in the years to come.