After enjoying arguably the finest season in program history, including its first ever Hudson County championship, the Kearny boys’ volleyball team put itself on the map as one of the better teams in the state.
This spring, however, brings a host of new players and while individually the talent is there for another strong season, the Kardinals enter the year with a lot still to be determined.
“We’re very happy with our success. Last season, winning that championship was a great feeling,” Kearny head coach Bill Mullins said about last year’s 23-5 campaign. “But this is another season and every season has its own agenda. Some of the kids are back, but we have a lot of new kids and we have to take it one step at a time. We’ve lost some good players, but we have some good players coming back. We’re just trying to be the best team that we can be.”
Of all the losses, the most painful and hardest to overcome will be the one of his son William Mullins at the outside hitter. The younger Mullins, a Third Team, All-State selection, will miss his senior season as he continues to undergo treatment after being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in November.
“We’re going to miss William a lot this year,” Bill Mullins said. “He set the school record for kills, but he was also a great server and he was the best passer we had on the defensive end.”
Bill Mullins knows no one player will replace the production left with William’s absence, but it will instead have to be done with the help of multiple hitters.
Right now, Kearny has four seniors vying for time at outside hitter in Zackaria Abinze, Angel Cortes, Sebastian Glazewski and Yostin Padilla. The 6-foot-2 Abinze and 6-foot-0 Glazewski played primarily in the middle last season and could see some time there again as well.
Senior Gabriel Ferreira and junior Josh Baeza are two athletic newcomers, who could also make an impact on the outside in the back row.
The Kardinals sport similar depth at the middle block. Giuseppe Adami, a 6-foot-3 sophomore and 6-foot-2 senior Christ Cabrera are set to see extensive time after seeing time there last year as well as Abinze, Cabrera and Glazewski.
Junior Matheus Mullins is a returning starter at opposite hitter for Kearny after posting a team-high 73 blocks a season ago. The 6-foot-5 Mullins could also see some time at setter, which will bring an added dimension to the lineup.
“It’s a big advantage to have his size there,” Bill Mullins said. “He’s definitely a factor in the front. Last year he was very valuable as the opposite with his blocking. We can put him in the middle too.”
Senior Adrian Moran is set to take over as the main setter.
Senior Jayson Jenkins returns as Kearny’s starting libero with Colin Rafferty also vying for the time on defense.
Kearny begins the season April 4 at Memorial of West New York before playing back-to-back home games against state tournament contenders Union and Bayonne. The Kardinals are set to host archrival Harrison in a rematch of last year’s Hudson County Tournament final on May 15.
“We have to do this as a team. We got to do this as a group,” Bill Mullins said. “The kids are into it and have the right attitude. If everybody’s into it and puts the team first, we can be a very competitive team. If we try to play individually, I don’t think we’ll do that well.”
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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.)