Benet middle blocker has court savvy
Updated: May 19, 2011 8:20PM
Kevin Weithers of Benet may not be as tall as a lot of the other middle blockers he faces, but he’s rising to the challenge.
The 6-2 junior makes up for what he lacks in height with athleticism and intelligence.
A two-year starter, Weithers is quick, has a great vertical and he has the ability to read the setter in order to set up the block.
“Kevin is turning into a dominant force in the middle,” said Benet coach Amy Van Eekeren. “He works hard all the time to get the block, quick sets and slides. He is also one of the best passers and plays amazing defense. He plays all the way around, which is rare for a middle. He often keeps our offense transitioning with big digs.”
Although he knows that he isn’t going to get set a great deal, according to his coach, Weithers has been coming up with the big kill at opportune times and he balances out the offense to take pressure off the outsides.
“He can also give us that big block to keep our momentum going or start a run of points,” said Van Eekeren. “This year we’ve seen a big transformation. He’s more confident and more consistent to the point where he’s developed into a leader on the court. The other kids look to him for leadership.”
Another undersized dynamo is Neuqua Valley outside hitter Conner Dart, who stands 5-10, which is short for that position.
Dart, a two-year regular, is among the five seniors who are in their second year together as starters, and he plays a valuable role in the Wildcats’ quick offense.
“Conner’s game is so well-rounded,” said Neuqua Valley coach Erich Mendoza. “He’s one of the primary passers on our team, he’s very quick and he plays great defense. He’s going to wind up being second to Jon Storm in kills. As a smaller hitter he runs a lot of quick sets. When he goes to the outside the other team’s middle blocker can’t get there in time. And he also runs quick plays behind the setter.”
Mendoza knows that a taller hitter could be more effective on the block, but that Dart’s skills and court-awareness more than make up for his height disadvantage.
“He’s a great passer,” said Mendoza. “His terrific passing and serving have been major factors for us. And he can also be an impromptu setter, which gives us that element of surprise. Conner has a high volleyball IQ.”
The coach has been impressed with how hard Dart and his fellow seniors: Storm, setter Alex Blackwell, libero Zach Gilligan and middle hitter Tanner McKeown have worked to make sure they function efficiently as a unit.
“They have great communication,” said Mendoza. “But each one is so familiar with the other guys that they just move instinctively. They don’t have to say anything. The players who are getting to play for the first time this year have just blended right in. It’s amazing what a year of varsity experience can do for a unit.”
The Wildcats begin the playoffs Tuesday as the No. 1 seed in the semifinals of the Bolingbrook Regional at 6:30 p.m. against the winner of the Plainfield East vs. Bolingbrook play-in match. The regional feeds into the Belleville East Sectional.
Here are next week’s regional assignments for the other Naperville-area teams. All of these regional winners will go to the IMSA Sectional.
Metea Valley (No 13) will play a first-round match Monday at 6:30 p.m. against Proviso East (No. 20 at the St. Francis Regional.
Naperville Central (No. 12) will play a first-round match Monday at 7:30 p.m. against Oswego East (21) at the St. Francis Regional.
Waubonsie Valley will be the No. 8 seed and will open Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against the winner of Lyons vs. St. Joseph in the semifinals of the York Regional.
Benet will be the No. 7 seed and the Redwings are hosting their own regional. They open in the semifinals Tuesday at 7;30 p.m. against the winner of the West Aurora vs Nazareth match.
Naperville North (No. 6) will start the playoffs Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Willowbrook Regional against the winner of Willowbrook vs. Proviso West.