Volleyball team staying strong despite shutdown
These days, Northampton’s boys’ volleyball program is about who will be the recipient of the Mortar Mixer Belt.
The belt measures the weekly timeliness and effectiveness of a series of agility and weight-training workouts for each member of the team, and it has been awarded since their program was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the stalled state of athletics, the Konkrete Kids kept their regular season workout pace over the past weeks, guided by the program’s five seniors, Ryan Caffrey, Matt Fenstermaker, Dylan Holland, Chris Miller and John Sankari.
According to head coach Sue Arndt, they truly exemplified the season motto for the team T-shirt this season, “Give Everything, Regret Nothing.”
They have been a team has adhered to their values and goals.
“The seniors dedicated that motto and they really followed through with it,” said Arndt, who began her third season at the helm. “They have helped the rest of them team cherish every day. They really were leaders and didn’t want to let up on the season.
“When we started the Mortar Mixer Belt, the seniors each had a group. But as we went on, it became more of an individual thing. They made everyone feel like a real family.”
Arndt, who won a district title with Emmaus during an eight-year stint there and an 11-year stop at Catty, believed her team was ready to turn the corner after missing districts by a game last season.
“We figured it would take three years to change the culture here,” said Arndt. “It was really disappointing last year that we missed districts by a game. But the kids had bought into what we were trying to show them. Ninety-percent of them play club ball and they were involved in summer leagues.
“We saw ourselves making a run at leagues and getting into districts and having a shot there this year. Their attitude and work ethic has really changed.”
Arndt elevated the program in the preseason when she instituted a three-minute session every 45 minutes of practice that typically consists of weights, speed ladders and ropes.
“At first, they would complain that we had to go back to practice after the workout,” said Arndt. “But the seniors helped everyone adapt to it, and it quickly became part of our workouts.”
Their newly dedicated status also was evident on a white board that was attached to a new ball rack. On it, the players signed their names around their team goals of intensity, drive, knowledge, integrity, hard work, unity and communication behind the slogan “come back stronger.”
“They held true to it,” stated Arndt. “I will keep it there until next season and not erase it. It’s what they want and they won’t back out of it.”
The team recently celebrated their senior night with a parade and photos at each senior’s house. That included a car caravan drive by each senior’s house as another way to honor them.
“We’ll miss all five, but we had 6-foot-5 Matt Fenstermacker, 6-2 Dylan Holland, and 6-0 Chris Miller in the middle,” she said. “Those three would have had a huge impact in the middle.”
She is anticipating keeping the Kids in the hunt next season behind a large junior class. Junior Cody Whiteman will be back as the libero and sophomore Jackson Fehnel returns as an outside hitter with promise.
Arndt is optimistic her team will compete in the North Catasauqua volleyball league during the summer as well as staying on the club route. She also would like to see her seniors play for the final time together during the summer.
“We’ll see what happens,” she said. “I really would love to see the seniors have a shot to play.
“But we are also looking forward to see how we can compete next season.”