Tuesday, April 9. It was the date that head coach Jim Barnes had circled on his calendar since practice started this season for his Indian River High School boys’ volleyball team.
It was the date when Barnes would get a chance to see just how far his squad had come in just over a year’s time of varsity action. The date featured a match with perennial state powerhouse Salesianum, a two-time defending state champion, and a program that is a collective 174-14-1 over the past 10 years.
The Indians let it be known early that they are a team that should be taken seriously, as they took the first two sets before finishing off their guests 3-1 to give Sallies their first loss of the season.
“Huge win,” an elated Coach Barnes said afterwards. “They are tops in everything, man. How many times have we heard about Sallies winning championships? They’ve won so many in the past couple years. I don’t even know how many. They are definitely a measuring point for us.
“We were hyped for the match. I am just so happy for the kids, happy for the school. So happy we got the support, and the atmosphere was exactly what I was hoping for. The student section was so hyped up.”
IR cruised in the first set, 25-18, and then battled back-and-forth to take the second set, 25-21. Then Sallies got themselves back into the match with a third-set win, 25-21, which caused some concern to creep into Barnes’ head.
“It creeped in when it was 2-0,” Barnes joked after his team took the fourth set, 25-17, to clinch the match. “I’ve been involved in volleyball too long and seen it happen too many times. I’ve won games when I was down 2-0, and I’ve lost games being up 2-0. It’s not over until that [scoreboard] hits 25 in the third set, or when you win three sets.
“It’s tough. They can win, and then have the momentum. They lost a player, which was a big loss for them. But our kids stuck with it. Your character is made sometimes when things aren’t going so well. We had to regroup there,” after losing the third set, he said, “and I couldn’t be happier for the guys that were out there.”
Seniors Michael Barnes and Mitch McGee, along with junior Alex Canseco — IR’s tri-captains — were impressive in leading the team to victory. Barnes collected 27 kills, two aces, a block, 12 digs and an assist. McGee recorded 23 kills and 14 digs, while Canseco was credited with 60 assists, 11 digs, one kill and one ace.
Freshman Carson Barnes chipped in with 13 kills, two blocks and 14 digs in his first experience facing a top-level program like Sallies. Junior Mason Singer added 14 digs to go along with an ace, one kill and one block. Senior Porter Palmer contributed seven digs and a pair of kills to IR’s winning effort.
“Two great boys’ volleyball teams here,” concluded Coach Barnes. “It was just a really great atmosphere. We both put on a great show and, fortunately, we came out on top. You just don’t get many opportunities to beat Sallies too often, and we did it,” he said of the Tuesday matchup. “People should know how hard it is to beat them. I have to give it up to Sallies, because they are a great team. They are a class act. They are just a great program.”
The win improved IR’s record to 5-0 on the season. They will travel to Wilmington Charter School on Friday, April 12, before returning home for a date with Delmarva Christian on Monday, April 15.
Sallies came into the contest sporting a 3-0 record on the season and were making the long trip to the southern part of the state to face both IR and Delmarva Christian in a doubleheader. Sallies defeated the Royals, 3-1 (25-18, 22-25, 25-22, 25-18), before their match with the Indians. It is the only trip to the southern part of the state for Sallies this season, as they play mostly northern Delaware schools, with two contests against schools from Pennsylvania as well.
By Jason Feather