Versatile Bloomfield HS boys’ volleyball team looks to contend this season

BLOOMFIELD – Coming off last year’s 13-14 season, head coach Louis Stevens is expecting a better outcome for this year’s Bloomfield High School boys’ varsity volleyball team.

“I certainly expect to improve on that record as I felt that we did not fulfill the potential that the team had,” he said.

Overall, Stevens said his Bengals could achieve his goals as long as they play the way they are capable of.

“The top goal for the team is to play to their potential. If they do that, then we should be in the hunt for the Super Essex Conference-American Division title, the Essex County title and hopefully make a nice prolonged run at the North Section state title,” he said.

Stevens’ squad will be led this year by senior outside hitter Khalil Naouai.

“I believe he is one of the top players in the state this year. I was surprised and disappointed that he did not get mentioned as a player to watch,”said the coach, noting Naouai was named captain, along with Noel Shaji, also a senior who will see time at both the outside and opposite positions.

“Our defense will be fortified in the middle by junior Al-Samad Henderson, who is really taken over the middle blocker position,” Stevens said. “He is becoming more dominant as an attacker and is really beginning to understand the game of volleyball. The back row defense will be led by junior Zac Pekar, who will be the libero for the team. Junior Jose Bruno-Maldonado will be the primary setter. Senior Andy Murillo will see time at the opposite position as well as be the second setter when needed. Sophomore Kyle Barrow has stepped up his game and will see time at both the outside and opposite positions.”

Other players to watch are Julio Lizardo and Romello Faircloth.

“Both will see time at the middle blocker position and both are improving daily so they will be fighting it out for that second MB spot,” Stevens said. “Senior Jeffrey Siceron is another player who can play multiple positions and will be competing for playing time.”

Along with the team’s star player, Stevens said this year’s group is versatile.

“Khalil Naouai will be asked to carry the offensive load for the team this year, but we do have many players that are capable of generating offense. So, I would say that our versatility is probably our biggest strength,” he said.

Looking ahead at the schedule, the BHS coach said his team will play teams from different talent levels.

“This year is a mixture of solid teams within our division/conference, along with some lower-level teams. I did not overload the schedule with as many top-flight teams as I did last year, but will probably add some matches to our schedule to prepare us for state (tournament) play,” said Stevens.

In his 12th season with the boys’ team, Stevens, who has been the head coach of the program since spring 2005, will receive help this year by his assistant coaches – Ron Gasparri, the junior varsity coach, and freshman coach Dan Barry.

“They both have been with the program around eight or nine years,” Stevens said.

The Bengals opened the season Friday, April 1, with a home victory over Montclair.25-11, 25-9. Naouai had six kills and three digs; and Bruno-Maldonado had 10 assists.