By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Ever since Bill Mullins became the head boys’ volleyball coach at Kearny High School three years ago, there has been steady improvement in the program.
The Kardinals won 11 matches in Mullins’ first season in 2011 and posted a 14-14 mark last year, qualifying for the NJSIAA Group IV state playoffs.
But no one could have ever predicted what would transpire this season.
“Going into the season, I tried to tell the kids that we would take it one game at a time,” Mullins said. “Hudson County is very competitive and we were playing some tough teams.”
But after seven matches in 2013, the Kardinals own a 7-0 record. That includes winning the championship of the Union City Tournament, besting Belleville, 25-23, in the finals.
“The kids are off to a good start,” Mullins said. “They’re playing well and they enjoy playing. We’re getting good leadership from the seniors and they’ve shown a lot of dedication. They also work hard in practices.”
Mullins made a simple decree to his players.
“To win in volleyball, you have to hit the ball with power, you have to jump and you have to block,” Mullins said. “So we concentrated on putting some velocity on the ball. I’ve emphasized that since I started coaching this team. We’re fortunate enough to have some kids who are pretty explosive.”
Mullins also asked his team to do one thing.
“We can’t worry about who we’re playing,” Mullins said. “We just have to keep working hard, regardless of who the other team is. The kids are really into it. They’re responding well and it’s worked out well. Winning is always nice. I’m very proud of the kids.”
The Kardinals have good strength along the front line. Senior John Limos is a volleyball veteran.
“He’s a very good jumper who has been getting a lot of kills,” Mullins said. “He’s been scoring a lot of points for us.”
Senior Jonathan Horvaht is another three-year member of the Kearny volleyball squad.
“Jon is a very good all around player,” Mullins said of Horvaht, who also played basketball in the winter. “He’s a good leader on the team and he’s played well.”
Junior Douglas Chemin is the team’s main middle hitter.
“He also hits the ball hard and has good jumping ability,” Mullins said of Chemin. “He’s also a good blocker.”
The setter is senior Thiago DeCarvalho, who took over the role as setter late last season due to an injury.
“He played the last nine games there last year and really did a nice job,” Mullins said. “He’s provided excellent leadership for this team.”
Junior Kevin Serrano is another key member of the squad.
“He plays both on the front and back line,” Mullins said. “He also can get up. We have some good jumpers.”
Junior Joel Vivas is a solid all-around performer for the Kardinals.
The libero is junior Arky Milewski.
“He’s the leader on the team on getting on the floor,” Mullins said. “He’s all over the place. He’s diving and sliding, putting his body all over to make plays.”
Senior Matt Miller is another contributor in the front line, asked to make quality hits.
Senior Lucio Costa is Milewski’s backup at libero, but also plays along the back row. Senior Andre Amaro is a middle hitter and senior Luis Moreira plays anywhere Mullins needs him.
Other reserves include senior Chris Cardosa and juniors Matheus DeCastro and Brian Fonseca.
Mullins is enjoying life coaching an undefeated team. He knows that tougher squads are on tap, like St. Peter’s Prep this week, but the Kards are enjoying their best volleyball season to date.
“Obviously, it’s nice to win,” Mullins said. “It makes things a lot easier. You can’t control what the other teams are going to do. We just have to keep trying, keep playing hard in games and practices, stay disciplined and good things will happen. That’s what I look for. As long as the kids keep getting better, you’re happy.”
Mullins then stopped for a second and realized again that his team is undefeated.
“Of course, you’re happy when you’re winning,” Mullins said. “I’m very happy with this team. I enjoy coaching these kids. They’re doing everything you can ask of them.”