By Jeff Boliba
Special to the Observer
History was made on Saturday when Champlain Valley Union’s Redhawks topped the Essex Hornets to capture the state’s first ever boys’ volleyball championship in the newly sanctioned varsity sport.
The team was a blend of young and experienced players in 2016. The roster of 13 consisted of seniors Kevin Devine, Jeffrey Boliba, Kyle Gorman, Spencer Snipes and Elias Sturim; juniors Garrett Dunn and Will Burroughs; sophomore Liam Freeman and freshmen Noah Allen, Jacob Boliba, Baker Angstman, Storm Rushford and Alden Randall. Team staff consisted of Jeff Boliba, as head coach; Robyn Davis as assistant coach; Bob Schaw as stats manager and Julieta Rushford as volunteer coach.
Two seniors that led the team in 2016 were voted to the Vermont All-State Team, Jeffrey Boliba, who set the season and school record for setting assists and service aces and Kevin Devine, who had the season and school record in hitting kills and digs.
“Our Team will forever be the first Vermont Presidents’ Association varsity sanctioned state champions in Vermont for high school boys volleyball,” said Coach Boliba. “This was a dream of mine when I started the program at CVU four years ago. I could not be more proud of every player, coach and staff member on our team as they all contributed to this state championship!” Coach Boliba said.
The Redhawks went 10-1 in the regular season and earned the number one seed for playoffs. They faced Burlington in the semifinals and played beautifully, winning 3-0.
Then came the re-match in the state championships.
The Hawks started off strong and then Essex built some momentum to win the first game.
Coach Boliba made two lineup changes and brought in setter Storm Rushford and libero Baker Angstman. Essex took the lead by five late in the game. The Redhawks battled and gained momentum, thanks to great passing from Baker Angstman and play calling/setting from Jeffrey Boliba and Storm Rushford. Kevin Devine and Jacob Boliba got hot banging balls from the outside hitter position. Noah Allen and Spencer Snipes provided kills and blocks in the middle.
Game two’s come-from-behind victory was helped by the excited CVU fans cheering them on.
In game three, the team was confident and trusted its system. This was another tight game, but the Redhawks won.
Game four, CVU was smelling victory and won the third-straight game to close out the match on a set from Storm Rushford and kill from Jeffrey Boliba.