Rising for a spike

Keyon Johnston (4) of the Oswego varsity boys volleyball team goes up for a spike during Tuesday's home match against Central Square.

OSWEGO — The Oswego varsity boys volleyball team narrowly won both the first and second games Tuesday against Central Square 25-23, but quickly fell behind early in the third game, 8-3.

Even after Oswego coach Eric McCrobie called a timeout, the Bucs still couldn’t get their footing and get any longer streaks going. A few plays later, Oswego trailed 13-4.

Senior Robbie Allen was inserted into the lineup, and he served three consecutive points to bring the Bucs to within 14-7. Then senior Keyon Johnston served a couple of aces, and Oswego was back in the thick of the game.

McCrobie called another timeout when the Redhawks held an 18-16 lead.

“I was just really honest with them. I asked them how it felt that Central Square was having more fun on their Senior Night than they were, and that’s all they needed to hear, apparently,” McCrobie said. “I don’t know many people who would be OK with the fact that it’s their Senior Night and the opposing team came into their gym and wanted to play harder than they did. I challenged them with that and they responded very well and they showed me they were taking their Senior Night back.”

Play continued back and forth until senior Eric Carson entered. He gave the Bucs their first lead of the game after three aces in five serves.

Oswego took advantage of a couple of Central Square errors and got an ace from senior Mike Douglas to take the game 25-22 and complete a 3-0 sweep of the match, played in Powers Gymnasium at Leighton Elementary School.

The Bucs recognized their seven seniors: Allen, Johnston, Douglas, Eric Carson, Brady Carson, Cole Pratt and Spencer Stepien.

McCrobie called it an emotional night.

“With a lot of things going on right now, and everything that people are dealing with right now, Senior Night is just adding more emotion onto the already overwhelming emotions for people,” he said. “There were a couple of times where they got a little squirrelly and weren’t necessarily focused on the task at hand. But they were able to close it out in all three sets, which is the important thing.”

McCrobie mentioned that a few of the seniors are the players “who are always doing the right thing” on and off the court. He highlighted Allen and Brady Carson as positive voices, especially when they’re “talking it up on the bench.” He also acknowledged players like Douglas and Pratt, who bring a lot of experience.

“There are definitely a few people that have jumped out this year as leaders, and not even necessarily as a captain role because I haven’t even assigned a captain yet,” he said. “Overall, there’s a lot of senior leadership from different guys, which is very helpful when you’ve got a bunch of juniors underneath them looking to see what they’ve got to do next year.”

However, since the seniors are older, McCrobie has run into the issue of some players not having full availability. Some seniors are working outside of school since they did not know if there would be any sort of volleyball season.

Despite having six seniors on the court at once, it was the first time they all played in a game situation together.

“Volleyball is a sport where you trust the guy next to you. If you haven’t played with them, it’s hard to do that,” McCrobie said. “By the third set, they were talking a lot more and they were flowing way better. That was good stuff.”

Pratt led the team with five digs, three aces, three assists, and a kill. Douglas chipped in 10 kills, a block, and an ace. Johnston had two kills and three aces. Allen tacked on four digs, two kills, a block, and an ace. Brady Carson added 13 assists and three digs. Eric Carson recorded three aces, two kills, a block, and a dig. Spencer Stepien rounded out the stat sheet with three digs.

Despite the limited number of blocks, McCrobie said the team has been focusing on that skill a lot in practice, including building chemistry between Johnston and Douglas, calling it “a nightmare” for other teams.

“With big guys who have long arms, you should be a good blocking team. That’s what we’re working toward,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to take a swing on the other side of the net if Keyon and Mike were both standing there.”

Oswego (3-2) will take on Cicero-North Syracuse (8-0) today. The Northstars have only dropped one game all season, with seven three-game sweeps. McCrobie said the team has been watching CNS online and knows what they’re facing.

“I always challenge the guys to work harder than I do in practice. If they can do that, then they’re working hard. That’s all I ask from them,” he said. “It just depends on what team is going up to show up for Oswego. CNS is pretty consistent. We just have to bring our ‘A’ game for three consecutive sets.”

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