If there’s any question as to the expectations Harrison boys volleyball coaches Nick Landy and Anthony Sabia have for the program, the duo made sure to make it quite clear during the initial interest meeting weeks before the start of the preseason.
“We want to win everything. We said that on the first day,” said Landy, the Blue Tide’s veteran head coach. “We have a standard to uphold and we want to raise that (state championship) trophy at the end.”
With the majority of the lineup back from last year’s 22-7 squad, Landy and Harrison have every reason to believe that this group has the potential to win a state Group 1 and Hudson County championship this season.
“We always have goals starting with winning our league and winning any tournaments that we’re in,” Landy said. “We want to win the sectional title and then the state title. That’s always been our goal. The Hudson County title, we need to get that back, but we’re extremely excited.”
Leading the talented core of returning starters is senior outside hitter Guilherme Queiroz, who led the team with 198 kills a season ago.
“We’re going to count on him more than most,” said Landy. “He can hit from the back, he’s got a nice outside hit. Once he and Jose (De La Cruz), the setter, get together in sync it’s really going to be something to see.”
De La Cruz is also a returning starter at setter. He had 561 assists a year ago, but is more than just a passer as evidenced by his 186 digs and a team-best 54 aces.
“He’s a pretty good setter, but he can play pretty much anywhere on the court,” Landy said. “He’s got a tremendous serve besides being a great setter.”
Queiroz is hardly the only option De La Cruz can turn to on his sets. Senior Adrian Vivanco (139 kills, 106 digs) is back as the starting opposite and Adrian Jimenez (75 kills) returns as the second outside hitter.
One place where the Blue Tide has experienced turnover is at middle blocker as Harrison brings in a trio of first-year varsity players to fill the spots.
“No one’s really big, really tall, to be a true middle,” said Landy. “But we say that if you want to play, would you rather be the first middle or the third outside hitter?”
Landy does have high hopes for senior Gabriel Mocelini-Minervino, who had “a tremendous offseason,” after being a JV player last year. The other spot is a competition between senior Luiz Silva and Frank Barrera, a promising yet raw sophomore.
The biggest newcomer to the lineup, however, is on the backline as junior libero Anthony Narvaez transferred in from Kearny. Despite missing the first three weeks, Narvaez had 124 digs a season ago and is poised to be one of the state’ better defenders in the back row.
“He’s got such a clean pass that it’s amazing (to see), Landy said. “He hustles. He’s a really good addition to the lineup. He’s a pleasure to coach. He knows volleyball and it’s really great to see him out there. He’s literally all over the court and every pass is a great pass and that’s such a great thing.”
Senior Luis Cabrera (202 digs) is the defensive specialist after starting at libero last year.
Brandon Garcia, a senior, and junior Joel Rodriguez, are also vying for time in the back row with Rodriguez also poised to see action on the outside as well.
Senior David Dias, could see time at both opposite and in the middle, where while undersized, he makes up for with athleticism and heart.
Landy has high hopes for sophomore setter Jeremy Rivera, who will get some time at the position behind De La Cruz.
Harrison started its season on Monday, April 3 at home against Lyndhurst before traveling to Secaucus a day later.
The Blue Tide will once again challenge themselves outside of the NJIC schedule with independent matchups against perennial Hudson County contenders St. Peter’s Prep and Bayonne as well as a May 15 match at Kearny.
Harrison is also set to compete in tournaments at Old Bridge and Livingston as well as a tri-match with host Fair Lawn and Hunterdon Central.
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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.)