Lyndhurst boys volleyball builds on last year’s late success

When the Lyndhurst boys volleyball team won its first ever state tournament game last May with an underclassmen-heavy roster, head coach John Lisella was hopeful it marked a turning point for the young program.

If the first week of this season is any indication, the momentum from last spring has certainly carried over.

With three consecutive wins to start the new season, the Golden Bears suddenly find themselves on top of the NJIC standings and poised to have its first winning record in eight years.

“They were ready to start working and start working together and I think that continuity that we finished with last year really carried over,” Lisella said. “In our scrimmages they looked really, really well and then just carried along in the first week of the regular season.”

Leading the charge so far has been the lone senior starter, outside hitter, Matt Slaby. The 6-foot-4 Slaby had a team-best 11 kills in wins over Becton and Wood-Ridge and has 24 for the season.

“I’ve yet to see another team where he’s not the best athlete on the court,” said Lisella. “He’s just so long and jumps so high and is a complete game changer at the net with his hitting ability.”

Slaby is one of five Golden Bears with 10 or more kills through the first three matches, a testament to the team’s depth on offense.

“Last year (Matt) was kind of our only guy and I feel like this year guys have stepped up,” Lisella said. “This season, we’re pretty spread out with who’s getting kills for us. A couple different guys are now joining in on the blocks, which is huge. It’s been kind of fun to see other guys now step up in their second and third years starting for us.”

Among those other offensive threats is fellow outside hitter, is junior Cyprian Niedbal, a left-handed hitter and one of the team’s top servers.

“He is coming at a different angle, could kind of get it up and over the blockers to get us points,” Lisella said. “He’s a really solid server. He always starts off our games as our first server. He’s very solid in the back as well and a good athlete.”

One of the things that makes this Lyndhurst team unique is its ability to use juniorBartu Akar and sophomore Robert Dasler Jr. both as setters or opposite hitters. It’s a format that has worked well for the Bears with Akar recording 27 assists and 10 kills, while Dasler Jr. has 19 assists and 10 kills.

“It’s made things pretty easy because all the time we have guys that can set on the court, which is a great thing and they’re kind of getting more comfortable with it,” Lisella said. “If the ball’s not coming right to whoever the setter is at that time, we have someone else in place that could easily just pick the ball up and get it to one of our hitters.

“It’s a lot to ask of those two. But they’ve done a really good job so far both setting and hitting.”

In the middle are juniors Angel Rojas (10 kills) and Robert Curcio (six kills). Sophomore Jan Lesnicki brings added depth to the position as well.

On the backline, sophomore Max Dmochowski is a returning starter at libero and has 25 digs so far this season.

“He got a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger, a little bit more athletic,” said Lisella. “He’s been great back there. He’s kind of an unsung hero at that position, loves doing it.”

Lyndhurst is set to face its greatest challenge of the young season on Tuesday when it travels to face a Garfield team that is also undefeated in NJIC play. Then, after a home match with North Arlington, the Golden Bears will face Harrison on Monday, April 15.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.