Watterson Roundup: Eagles boys volleyball team ready for postseason

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Senior setter Jake Maziarz and Watterson open the Division II postseason May 21. Maziarz is the only key returnee from the Eagles' 2019 team, which was the state runner-up.

Knowing the limited amount of previous experience it possessed, the Watterson boys volleyball team made taking advantage of every practice and learning situation a priority heading into this season.

That attitude began to pay off during the second half of the regular season for the Eagles, who lost seven of their first 10 matches before eventually getting back to the .500 mark. 

Watterson, which was the Division II state runner-up and finished 17-10 in 2019, is hoping its recent run of improved play will make it a contender once it begins the postseason May 21. 

“I really feel like we’ve been able to focus and kind of buckle down,” senior outside hitter Nick Isabelle said. “We don’t have a lot of practices, but when we do have practices, we take it very seriously and we try to take our games as seriously because you play like you practice.” 

Isabelle dressed during the Eagles’ state tournament run two years ago but saw limited playing time that season, spending most of it as a captain for the junior varsity team. 

Watterson has only 11 players and doesn’t have a j.v. team this spring, but it did add a player, senior Matt Niese, in late April to increase its depth. Niese is the brother of junior middle hitter Luke Niese and is playing at outside hitter. 

Watterson was 10-8 overall after beating Whetstone 25-18, 25-8, 25-13 on May 11. It finished 2-4 in the CCL. 

“I did sit on the bench during the state tournament,” Isabelle said. “I wasn’t playing but I felt like I was playing and it was great, really just the whole experience of having a family around you, building a bond with all your brothers. You want to keep on going through the tournament.” 

The only key returnee from the 2019 team is senior setter Jake Maziarz, who was first-team all-region and honorable mention all-state that season. 

“We’ve focused on the fundamentals and breaking it down to the basics, and from there we’ve tried to build off of each fundamental,” Maziarz said. “We haven’t had a lot of varsity experience and I’m the only one back with a ton of varsity experience, so it’s been difficult in that aspect. But everyone’s been coachable and has improved a lot since the beginning of the season, so I think it’s made my job easier. 

“Coach Ryan (Thompson) has helped me become more vocal. I’m more of an introverted person, so when I’m on the court, he’s definitely helped me and a lot of the guys have more energy. We just need to calm everything down and can’t overcomplicate everything, just focus on our side of the net.” 

According to Thompson, the growth of players such as sophomore Michael Kirkpatrick (outside hitter) and senior Nick Whitsett (middle hitter/outside hitter) has helped. 

“We’re just trying to get all the stuff figured out for the tournament and get guys playing in different areas,” Thompson said. 

Nick Kudika and Watterson begin the Division II district tournament May 20 at home against Heath or London in a second-round game.

Baseball team 

to open tourney 

The eighth-seeded baseball team begins the Division II district tournament May 20 at home against 14th-seeded Heath or 17th-seeded London in a second-round contest. 

The winner plays top-seeded Bloom-Carroll, 15th-seeded Centennial or 19th-seeded Eastmoor Academy in a district semifinal May 24, with the winner to play for a district title May 26.

After losing 3-2 to St. Charles on May 10, the Eagles were 11-9 overall and finished 4-4 in the CCL. Watterson trailed the Cardinals 2-0 before scoring twice in the top of the sixth, but St. Charles scored in the bottom of the sixth. 

Nick Kudika pitched the first five innings against the Cardinals. 

In a 12-1 win May 8 over Ironton, Brandon Trout had three hits and four RBI, Charlie Bernotas had three hits and Max McCann added two hits and two RBI. 

Track teams sweep

CCL championships

The boys and girls track and field teams have started postseason competition, with the girls competing in the Division I, district 3 meet May 19, 20 and 22 at Hilliard Darby and the boys competing in the Division II, district 1 meet May 18, 19 and 22 at Westerville North. 

The top four in each Division I district event advance to the regional May 26 and 28 at Pickerington North, and the top four in each Division II district event advance to the regional May 27 and 29 at Lexington. 

On May 10 and 12 at DeSales, both teams captured championships in the CCL meet.

The boys scored 172 points. Finishing first were Cam Nickleson in the shot put (45 feet, 7 inches), Carson Blank in the 300-meter hurdles (41.34 seconds), the 800 relay of Nick Youell, Jake McCann, Spencer Mandzak and Tyler Young (1:33.59) and the 3,200 relay of Max Hall, Max Latshaw, Cris Kubatko and Will Garey (8:11.41).

The girls scored 214 points. Finishing first were Hannah Brady in the long jump (16-1 1/2), Cailin O'Reilly in the high jump (5-0), Erin Connors in the 100 hurdles (15.66) and 300 hurdles (45.82), Anna Kessler in the 100 (12.15) and 200 (25.31), Grace Jenkins in the 400 (59.92), Brooklyn Brush in the 800 (2:23.39), Erin Karas in the 3,200 (11:22.22), the 400 relay of Sydney Workman, Kessler, Jordan Morales and Jenkins (48.97), the 800 relay of O'Reilly, Jenkins, Workman and Kessler (1:41.96), the 1,600 relay of Mia Gill, Morales, O'Reilly and Connors (4:03.66) and the 3,200 relay of Claire Sugar, Brush, Connors and Karas (9:41.07).

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek