Dallas showed in the opening match of the Wyoming Valley Conference boys volleyball season that it has multiple players capable of finishing off points.
The Mountaineers also made it clear that they have found the player to set up those hitters after losing projected starting setter Nick Michalsin to a broken wrist suffered during the off-season.
James Del Priore, the team’s senior captain, is one of three returning starters. After playing all over the court last season, he has settled into his new role quickly.
“At the beginning of the season, our setter went down and I had to take over setting,” Del Priore said. “That was a bit of a challenge for me, but I wanted to get us in the best position to win so I’ve worked on setting.”
When the Mountaineers opened the season Tuesday with a win over rival Lake-Lehman, Del Priore had 30 of the team’s 32 assists and led the team with eight digs.
After Dallas found itself down two games at the start, Del Priore helped get the attack moving in the right direction for a come-from-behind, 23-25, 15-25, 25-21, 25-15, 15-11 victory.
“We didn’t give up at all,” Del Priore said. “Coming into the game, we wanted to win to make a statement. When we were down two games, we just stayed motivated.
“We fought. We kept believing in ourselves.”
Dallas coach Nick Diaco believes the team has the commitment and potential to make a playoff run.
The Mountaineers were just 4-8 last season. Lake-Lehman was one of the eight qualifiers for the District 2 Class AA tournament after going 8-4 in the WVC.
“We have 12 guys and six or seven of them participated in off-season camps and the whole team participated in an off-season league in Dallas where we were able to get some team chemistry going and play some teams that are in our conference,” Diaco said. “They were exposed to volleyball year-round and have had that playoff mindset since the end of last year.”
Del Priore’s adjustment made sure that mindset did not have to change with Michalsin’s injury, which could keep him out the entire season or at least until the potential playoff participation.
With Del Priore distributing the ball, Bryce Mattern was able to produce 17 kills and five blocks while Alex Rubbico had 10 kills and Patrick Madaya had nine kills and six blocks.
“We have a wide variety of people that are great hitters,” Del Priore said. “If it’s a good pass, I try to get it to our middle hitter Bryce. Then, once they see us going to the middle, I try to get it to the outside because any of our hitters can make a play on the ball.”
Madaya, a junior, is another returning starter along with Matt Diaco.
Matt Diaco, the coach’s younger brother, is in his third season as a starter. From the libero position, he was second in the conference in digs last season.
Kevin Masters, Michael Hartman and Brian Devine led the way for Lake-Lehman in Tuesday’s loss. Masters had 15 service points and 12 digs, Hartman had 24 assists and seven digs and Devine had nine kills and seven digs.
The Black Knights had won their season opener. The loss to Dallas dropped them to 1-1.