Eagles flying high after slow start to season

Michael Swensen, 14, and Zach Bryant, 7, combine for a block in a match against Sycamore.
Michael Swensen, 14, and Zach Bryant, 7, combine for a block in a match against Sycamore.

By Chris Chaney
Sun staff

A less-than-desired start for the Milford Eagles has already been pushed out of the team’s collective memory as Clermont County’s lone boys’ volleyball team has gone on a tear over their last six matches to bring the preseason goals back within focus.

“We’ve won five of our last six games, which is pretty good considering we started off pretty slow,” Milford head coach Jim Siciliano said. “(The start) was kind of to be expected. We’ve got a lot of new players. We tend to get our older students coming out to play volleyball later on in their high school years, so we have to do a little bit of work at the beginning of the year.”

The Eagles gelling process was no different this year with just one returning starter from the 2013 squad, junior outside hitter Michael Swensen.

“We’ve been able to develop quite a bit over a short period of time and been pretty successful as of late,” Siciliano said.

At 5-6 overall, the Eagles climb back to near .500 is just as impressive as the team itself. Swensen, the team’s most potent offensive threat, is leading the team in kills while being legally blind.

“He wears glasses (which aids) his peripheral vision, but if you were to take his glasses off, he could not see three feet in front of him,” Siciliano explained. “With volleyball and the sets coming from the sides, he does really well and is definitely our best offensive player.”

While Swensen mans the periphery of the court, Quinn Callahan, a middle blocker who has junior varsity experience and came off the bench for the varsity last season, and Zach Bryant, a former basketball player and first year volleyball player, hold down the middle of the court.

“(Callahan) has greatly improved both on offense and on defense in terms of blocks,” Siciliano said. “(Bryant) has really grown (as a player) and has been able to get some blocks to help our team out.”

The team’s steady improvement is par for the course, Siciliano said. Because most of the upperclassmen who are now on the team join later in their high school careers, the learning curve is steep, yet doable. This season has been no different. As the regular season winds down with just five matches to go, Siciliano feels that his team has played their way into a contender every time they take the court.

“Over the next few weeks — we’ve got five games left — our goal is to win at least three of those,” he said. “If we can win three of those, then the worst we can do is 8-8. Starting 1-5, that’s a pretty big accomplishment.”

The seed meeting for the Ohio High School Boys’ Volleyball Association state tournament is Monday, May 5 with the tournament beginning the following week. Coming out of the strong South region of the state — home of nine of the last 11 Division I state champions — Siciliano wants to take the tournament one match at a time.

“My goal is to be able to get a pretty decent seed and play a team in the first round that we can compete against and hopefully be successful against to go on in the tournament.”

The Eagles played a pair matches on Tuesday, April 29 and Wednesday, April 30 against Princeton and Loveland, respectively. The results of those two matches were not available at the time of print.

Milford then plays at Middletown on Thursday, May 1, at Lakota East on Tuesday, May 6 and at Lakota West on Wednesday, May 7 to put a bow on their regular season.

For more information, go to ohioboysvolleyball.com.