There was a simple reason for Monsignor Donovan’s success.
“The boys wanted to play volleyball,” said Tom Trembulak, the Griffins’ fourth-year coach.
The Griffins bested Freehold, a victory Trembulak termed a “statement” win. It was their eighth victory in a row. As a reward, he offered his team a day off from practice the next day. It practiced.
“That was a key moment for me,” said Trembulak, assisted by Brian Papiernik and Mark Blair. “I said, ‘They get it. They’re hooked on volleyball.’ They grew into loving the sport and wanting to learn everything about it.”
The Griffins learned and then some. They set a school single-season wins record at 11-7 and shared the Shore Conference Class A Central championship with Central (6-2).
It was Donovan’s first winning season and initial division title in its seven-year history. It had won four matches twice in school history. The Griffins went 4-12 last year, including 2-6 in Class A Central.
“Our initial goal was to post the first winning season in school history,” Trembulak said. “I felt we could have a winning record and be in the running for the division title. The boys took it game by game and stayed focused the whole way.”
Donovan’s top players were middle blocker Will Garry and senior setter John McAllister.
Garry, a four-year varsity starter, finished with 146 kills, 76 blocks, 77 digs, nine assists and eight aces. McAllister notched 36 kills, 33 blocks, five digs, 387 assists and 28 aces.
McGarry set school career records in kills (281), blocks (134) and digs (227). McAllister set the Griffins’ career record in assists (752).
Garry, who will attend Monmouth University, was the lone freshman on the varsity and played on the back row. He was named the Griffins’ Most Valuable Player as a junior and senior and won their Hustle Award as a freshman and sophomore.
“He’s a special athlete,” Trembulak said. “He just progressed. As a sophomore, he learned to play more offense. He played all six positions and developed a very accurate float serve.”
McAllister, bound for Ocean County College, was named the team captain by Trembulak.
“It’s important for the setter to be the team leader,” Trembulak said. “When he was a freshman, he was a setter on our junior varsity team. His hair was down to his shoulders. We said, ‘Cut your hair and you will be able to see the ball better.’ He was willing to change things and try new things to become a better player.”
Donovan also received contributions from senior opposite-outside hitter Jared Rayment, senior outside hitters Chris Ingraham and Dan Federowicz, senior opposite Adam Vanore, junior outside hitter John O’Connor, senior defensive specialist Gunjan Desai, junior defensive specialist-setter Tyler Broo, senior opposite-outside hitter Will Robertson and senior middle blocker Adam King.
“The guys deserve a lot of credit,” Treembulak said. “They went out to dinner after practices. They never got tired of each other. They had a tireless work ethic. It was a lot of fun to coach them. My main goal as a coach was to get them to appreciate the sport and make it a lifetime sport for them.”