01/14/14 — UMO's Heller hit recruiting trail in offseason

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UMO's Heller hit recruiting trail in offseason

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 14, 2014 1:47 PM


MOUNT OLIVE -- Replacing five starters and 60 percent of your offense can be a daunting task for any coach in any sport.

David Heller took the challenge in stride.

The second-year University of Mount Olive men's volleyball coach hit the recruiting trail and added nine new faces to the roster during the offseason. So far, the talented and inexperienced group has meshed with nine letter-winners who return from 2013.

"I really like this team's personality," said Heller, who guided UMO to a program-best 22 wins last season and earned the 2013 Conference Carolinas coach-of-the-year award.

"With some players, we're going to have those first-year woes where they're going to have some really great matches, and some where they're going to struggle because they've never played in an NCAA match before."

Heller scoured the country for quality talent.

He found a trio of players -- outside hitter Garrett Dimm, libero Josh Donahue and middle hitter Alex Palmatier -- who excelled with the Yorktown (Pa.) Volleyball Club on the national level last winter. Dimm and Donahue earned first-team all-state accolades.

True freshmen Kellan Hollingsworth and Andrew Sydow played on two high-profile teams in Virginia. Hollingsworth, a 6-footer, helped lead Cox High School to four consecutive state championships in its division.

Sydow is a 6-6 middle hitter.

JUCO transfer Tyler Yanez has taken over the setter position, vacated by Ben Casado, who did not return to the team this season. Heller will also depend on Army veteran Mike Mann.

"Tyler has done a great job of running the offense in place of Ben," Heller said. "Mike has a lot of experience playing. He'll add leadership at the middle and on the court overall, providing a good example for the rest of the since there are so many young players."

The emotional duties belong to the Trojans' lone returning starter -- two-time all-Conference Carolinas selection Angel Dache. Dache cranked out a team-leading 302 kills in 2013, which is the second-highest single-season total in program history behind Adam Miracle's 337.

Dache ranked third nationally in service aces per set, 14th in hitting percentage (.326) and 18th in kills per match (12.82) a year ago.

"We all know the athleticism that Angel has and the intensity that he can bring to the court," Heller said. "When he gets a huge kill, an ace or a block, the team really rallies behind that. I think that this year, with the supporting cast that we've added, he's done a good job of bringing the energy when he's not scoring the points.

"That's what we need out of him this year."

Australian Lewis Einarson pounded out 97 kills and posted 43 total blocks last season. Heller lost his top three defensive standouts and said that that the Trojans' "defense is a little sticky right now."

UMO led the nation in aces per set (1.83) last season, but also struggled at times in its passing game. Heller expects the new recruits to help sharpen that area of concern, which should lead to a crisper offensive attack during serve receive and on transition plays.

The Trojans open the season Wednesday at home against Barton.