BLOOMFIELD, NJ-- It's been a difficult season for high school sports in New Jersey. And, of course, that applies to the Bloomfield High boys' volleyball team, which had high hopes entering the 2020 season, when practice commenced last March.
Bloomfield coach Louis Stevens, like so many of his colleagues in the coaching business, felt badly for all the athletes, especially the seniors.
"With nine seniors this year, our team was looking forward to defending their Essex County championship," said Stevens, who also coaches the BHS girls volleyball squad in the fall. "There were four members of the senior group that played a significant role in winning the 2019 title. Matthew Fong, the libero, had a tremendous year in the back row, playing stellar defense and being the primary passer in serve/receive. He was looking to repeat as a county champion and repeat as a first team All-SEC player in the American Division. Matthew will be attending NJIT, and hopes to gain an opportunity to try out as a walk-on prospect.
"Dante Gibbs had a big year in the middle, gaining some timely kills and huge blocks over the course of the (2019) season and the post-season play. He was featured as a "player to watch" during the (2020) volleyball preview. He garnered second-team, All-SEC American Division, as voted on by the coaches. He is undecided in his future plans."
Stevens continued his lauding of the senior class.
"Marc Abraham was looking to solidify his spot as an outside hitter this season, and was well on his way to being a steady contributor to the team's successes," the coach said., "He will be attending Union County College in the fall. Alnazir Cobb was a backup setter who also saw time as an rightside hitter/blocker. One of the more athletic players, he was going to play a significant role at both the setter spot and the right side this year. Alnazir is currently undecided on his future plans."
The remaining seniors all played on the junior varsity level, as starters in 2019, and had the opportunity to see significant playing time during the course of this season. Christian Lopez; a setter, will be attending William Paterson University. Peter Kuo, a middle blocker or pin hitter, will attend Montclair State, Alex Camacho; a middle blocker, is off to Lincoln Tech for HVAC training, Michael Mansilla, an outside hitter, is currently undecided on his plans and Marlon Richards; a middle blocker, is still finalizing his plans for next year.
Stevens is also excited about the returning players in 2021.
"Unfortunately, I never got a chance to see them play, beyond the tryouts and the scrimmages we had during those tryouts (in early March)," said Stevens. "However, I liked what I saw and I expect them all to be back with a vengeance next year, ready to step in and defend the county title."
Among the returning players are junior outside hitter, Chinonso Anyanwu.
"Chino made some solid contributions in his sophomore year and looked to be ready to step in and be the main offensive weapon on the pin. Hopefully he gets that opportunity next year," said Stevens.
Milazim Maliqi, a junior defensive specialist and outside hitter, had a good season on the junior varsity team in 2019. Christopher Moreno, another junior, played setter. He was the primary setter during his time on the junior varsity and Stevens felt he was ready to split time during the 2020 season with Alnazir Cobb.
Uma Kalu, a sophomore middle blocker, was the the tallest player on the team.
"Uma's main strength is his blocking ability," said Stevens. "However, if he works hard and improves his arm swing, he will be a force to be reckoned with out of the middle."
Jaydon Apgar, a sophomore outside hitter. was showing a lot of promise in the early going of 2020. "He grew into his body and possessed one of the highest verticals on the team," said Stevens. "He was on a hammering spree during tryouts. It didn't matter who was blocking him, he simply hit over, through or around the block during the tryouts. I was very much looking forward to seeing him compete at the varsity level this year."
While the 2020 spring season is completed, Stevens is already looking ahead to this fall, when the girls take the court.
"Hopefully, we'll have a season," the coach said.