Added depth has Belleville boys volleyball thinking big

There have been years where Belleville boys volleyball coach John Spina looked at his bench with great concern about what would happen if any of them had to come in due to injury.

This preseason, when Spina has looked at his bench, the thought has instead been how do I incorporate all of these players with the potential of making an impact.

“Last year, if somebody got sick or hurt, there was a huge impact on the team. The backups were just not ready,” said Spina, calling this the deepest roster he’s had. “This year , I don’t really have to worry about the next guy in line hurting the team.

“I’ve never ever, ever had this much depth.”

Three starters are back from last year’s 10-11 squad, headlined by junior outside hitter Gabriel Campos. The 5-foot-11 Campos, had 111 kills and 118 digs and has the potential to be the lead hitter on the attack.

“Gabe has stepped up nicely,” Spina said. “He’s probably our hardest hitting outside hitter, he hits a heavy ball and he has great control over the ball where he creates a lot of topspin.”

Senior Joshua Nodong, who started at middle and opposite hitter last season shifts over to the other outside spot. Nodong, who had 40 kills and 15 blocks a season ago, also has some prior experience on the outside, making him one of the team’s most versatile players.

“I asked him if he wanted to give outside another shot,” Spina said. He’s a great kid and was like ‘I’ll just do whatever the team needs.’”

The unofficial title hardest hitter on the team belongs to junior middle hitter Aleka Dusic. The 6-foot-2 Dusic saw action late last year and has the potential to be an impact player.

“When he gets on a ball, man that ball finds the floor fast,” said Spina. “He’s very good at blocking and I think he’ll be the player with the biggest impact if we can find ways to get him the ball.”

Another junior, Barron Tran will start at the other middle after playing primarily on the outside on the JV level. While Tran might not possess prototypical height, his athleticism and hitting ability have allowed him to find a home at the new position.

Juniors Jeraldi Sylvain and Matt Ang are currently competing at opposite hitter, where they each bring athleticism to the position.

Senior David Guato is set to take over as the primary setter with senior Vincent Pan also sure to see plenty of time at the position as well as, potentially, highly-regarded sophomore Peter Garcia.

Senior Kevin Phan, who led the team in digs a season ago with 192, is a returning starter at libero. Junior Michael Hernandez returns as a defensive specialist.

Also vying for time in the lineup is sophomore Kalib Laquindanum, an outside hitter with immense potential. Also competing for time at outside hitter are seniors Ryan Merceda and James Suba as well as sophomore Jason Dong.

Senior Aiden Rodriguez brings additional depth in the middle with sophomores David Ochoa, Caleb Love and Aiden Laxamana looking to crack the rotation as well. Alexander Gonzalez and Miles Ramada are vying for time at opposite hitter, with Rodolfo Candalera providing additional depth at setter.

Victor Toledo and Marcos Quinde are also looking to see action on the back line.

Belleville will be tested right away as it opened the season on Monday April 1 at home against Montclair. Home matches against rivals Bloomfield and Nutley follow on Wednesday and Thursday before traveling to defending North Jersey, Group 1 champion West Caldwell Tech on Friday.

Learn more about the writer ...

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 (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)