Before the start of the season Harrison junior Guilherme Queiroz approached head volleyball coach Nick Landy with a request. Or, perhaps more accurately, Queiroz came with the idea of moving from middle block to outside hitter.
“He didn’t really tell me he wanted to play outside as much as he kinda sheepishly asked me ‘what do I think of him playing outside?’” recalled Landy. “It’s not a selfish thing, but I understand he wanted to play the position because he feels he can contribute more with hitting.”
Regardless of how the move came about, the decision to shift Queiroz to the outside has paid major dividends for the Blue Tide.
On April 4, Queiroz had a match-high six kills and five blocks to give the Blue Tide a surprising 25-15, 25-18 victory over reigning Hudson County and North 2 Sectional champion St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City.
Three days later in front of a large and boisterous home crowd against rival Kearny, Queiroz again led all players with nine kills as the Blue Tide took down the Kardinals, 25-21, 25-13.
The two victories against teams ranked among the top 10 in the state before the season has led to Harrison rising all the way up to No. 13 in the latest NJ.com state rankings. And for Queiroz, his performance has earned him the first The Observer Athlete of the Week selection for the spring season.
In five matches, Queiroz leads 4-1 Harrison in kills with 33 and blocks with seven. His 25 digs are second highest on the team.
“If he’s on and he’s having a good day hitting, then we’re having a good day,” said Landy. “That’s how much he lifts the team.”
“Last year I started playing as a middle, but I didn’t really like it because I wouldn’t get set as much and I wanted my team to depend more on me,” Queiroz said. “So I went up to Coach and I talked to him, asking if I could be an outside hitter so I could pass the ball and people could depend on me to hit. He understood my request and granted it to me because he knew I was capable of doing it.”
According to Queiroz, the first thing he did was reach out to his club volleyball coach at Sideout Sports, Cooper Bender, for pointers on how to become the best possible outside he could be.
At Sideout, the 6-foot-2 Queiroz was mainly a middle blocker as well, but played a lot as the opposite during the winter travel season.
Despite that extra work, even Queiroz has been taken aback by his early success.
“I am surprised,” Queiroz said. “I know that I’ve been giving it my best and giving all my effort to become a good outside hitter, but reviewing the games we’ve already played, I’m surprised at how well I’m doing and how much the hard work has paid off.”
Landy credits his work during club season for helping Queiroz improve from a part-time player as a sophomore to one of North Jersey’s top hitters as a junior. He also credits Queiroz’s time on the Harrison swim team as beneficial to his agility and endurance on the court.
“It allows us to keep Guillerme on the court longer. Normally, if he was in the middle, we would sub him out when he was in the back,” Landy said. “I think having him out there longer and in more of our rotations helps the team be successful. He can hit from the back, which is a nice tool to have.”
Despite the early success, Queiroz knows there is a lot more to be done – in particular as a passer – to be a more complete outside hitter. But if his first few months at the position are any indication, he’s confident he will continue to make significant strides as the season progresses.
“I think I still have a lot of things to get down and improve upon such as hitting and decision making,” Queiroz said. “But by the end of the season, I’ll be way better than I am now.”
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)