DALLAS TWP. – Now that the first win is out of the way, first-year Dallas boys volleyball coach Mike Shmakov is hoping for a new feeling of confidence to be evident in his team’s play.
“It took a while, but it will get better and better,” Shmakov said after the Mountaineers beat rival Lake-Lehman, 25-18, 25-13, 25-22, in a meeting between what had been the last two winless teams in the Wyoming Valley Conference. “I’ve noticed with a lot of teams … that after the first win, usually that’s where teams will hit a stride.
“They get more confident, then they start playing with more aggression and start playing like they know what they’re doing out there.”
The Mountaineers have had a few obstacles.
Shmakov was not hired to fill the vacant coaching job until January. He started the season with just 10 players. The lineup has since dwindled to eight and, with one player unavailable Monday, Dallas took on visiting Lake-Lehman with just one substitute on the bench.
After handling the Black Knights in the first two games, the Mountaineers fell behind by seven points twice midway through the third game.
Senior captain Danny Harpersberger settled things down. His powerful spike stopped Lake-Lehman’s momentum.
Harpersberger used finesse to finish another point at the net and regain the serve, which he then used for a streak of seven more points in a row, including two aces.
Before he was done serving, Harpersberger completed a stretch in which Dallas scored nine of 10 points for a 20-18 lead.
“I was just focusing on getting the ball over and really down-spinning it to the middle of the court,” Harpersberger said. “Then, when it came back, bump-set-kill, go from there.”
Harpersberger led the win with 14 service points, including seven aces, and 10 kills, all team-highs.
Logan Evanosky had seven kills and seven points while Corbin Thompson had five kills and five points.
Caleb Hill had 25 assists, seven points and three aces. Kyle Kern added nine points, including three off aces.
Without enough players to scrimmage 6-on-6, Shmakov has had to get creative with his practice planning, working on skill development more than team play.
“It’s more player-specific on what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, trying to work on all of them,” Shmakov said. “That’s easier having less kids, but at the same time, it’s a big downfall.
“We don’t have a JV program and we don’t have kids pushing each other to get better.”
One of the improving skills is the serve that Harpersberger showed off Monday while improving the Mountaineers to 1-5.
“It’s becoming stronger and stronger every match and being more efficient,” Shmakov said. “We’re trying to be more aggressive.
“There was an issue with him not being aggressive enough on serving. We tried to concentrate on that and it paid dividends (Monday).”
Harpersberger shares his coach’s outlook on what the win means.
“I think this win really shifted the way we handled things now,” he said. “We really came out headstrong and really focused on our defense. After this win, I think that we’ll keep our heads up.”
Jonathan Raspen led Lake-Lehman (0-6) with seven service points and two aces. Andrew Jubis had six points and two blocks. Justin Lansberry had two digs.
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