VASJ boys volleyball coach Rytas Petraitis recognizes the graduation of star senior Xavier Brown will not be an easy spot to fill for the Vikings.
Yet, Petraitis saw enough out of his squad this spring to look forward to 2018 and beyond for the program.
An emotional Division II tournament win over Kent Roosevelt in five games was a high note in a 6-8 season. The Vikings had to rally overcoming an unexpected injury and using some inexperienced players to eventually earn the victory. VASJ bowed out in the next round to a very talented Walsh Jesuit squad in a match that Petraitis said was actually beneficial to his young team.
“Walsh is a fantastic offensive team and I think it was good for our guys to see that kind of volleyball,” Petraitis said. “We are one of the smallest schools in Division II, but we are not going to back down to the competition or make excuses.”
Losing Brown will be difficult, but Petraitis sees excitement for the sport and an influx of talent coming to the corner of E. 185th and Lakeshore.
“Xavier is irreplaceable, but I think the younger players learned a lot from him on and off the floor and hopefully will use that moving forward,” Petraitis said. “I am really excited about the guys we have coming back and the young classes coming in to the school. I think we have a chance to reload and continue to get better.
“It’s not just the program that is growing, the school is really on the upswing and kids want to come here and be part of something great.”
Terrell Johnson-Jones and John Allen were the only other two seniors on the roster aside from Brown. Petraitis is confident the returners will bring much-needed experience to the floor and the young players new to the program will pick up the game quickly.
“We took another step forward this year and I think we are close to really putting up a solid record and being a dangerous postseason team,” Petraitis said. “I need to keep getting the word out because this is a very exciting time for boys volleyball at VASJ.”