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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2017:03:24 17:05:06

STAFF PHOTO/ JOHN LUND From left, senior Logan Dickson returns a shot and junior Evan Turner serves during practice.

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2017:03:24 17:05:07

The Tunkhannock Area boys volleyball team enters the season having lost some experience from last year, but with a growing optimism to surprise some teams in the division.

The Tigers finished last season with a 4-8 record in the Wyoming Valley Conference, which was an improvement from just one win in 2015.

This season, head coach Jeff Howell is hopeful to see that continued improvement as the season wears on.

“We lost some core kids from last year, so we’re trying to bring along some players who played varsity last season up to that speed,” Howell said. “We have a couple of new additions that are definitely going to help us. It may take a little while, but we’re hoping that it will eventually get us to where we were last season. Just playing some games is what it will come down to.”

Tunkhannock was able to get in some games against four other teams in the conference at the Easton Invitational Saturday, and was able to come away with a solid performance when the dust had settled.

“We were able to get more experience playing as a team,” Howell said. “That was a big goal for us before the season and it helped that we were able to see some other teams in the conference, especially if we’re able to benchmark ourselves off those programs.”

The tournament was also a good way for Howell to mix and match some of the newer players and get a better idea of what the starting lineup will be moving forward.

“I told them in the early going, I don’t know who the starting six is yet,” Howell said. “Everyone needs to work hard and give me 100 percent at practice so I can get them ready and on the court. We’ll fluctuate between a couple of groups and different rotations early on and test some things out. Hopefully, we’ll be able to stay healthy and have the big guys not get discouraged, because they’ll be the core of the group.”

Those “big guys” are junior Evan Turner and sophomore Avery Billings, both of whom stand well over six feet tall and have the potential to wreak havoc at the net.

“They’re our biggest strength, I can’t say many bad things about them,” Howell chuckled. “They swing hard and jump high and it’s fun to watch them play. You don’t get many of those types of players. I’m going to try to keep them opposite of each other so we’re not sending out one dominant rotation to another.”

As for the regular season, the goal for the Tigers has already been set.

“They want to be playing in the district playoffs,” Howell said. “We’ll just keep pushing them every day to get better. Our assistant coaches are playing with them as much as they can to get them some added experience, and that should help us for our early matches.”

Roster: Seniors Logan Dickson, Hunter Bowman, Hunter Mingus and Alex Robinson; juniors Max Hardy, Daniel LoBuono, Stephen Kirby, Evan Turner and Preston West; sophomore Avery Billings; and freshmen Paul Binner, Donovan Curley and Trejon Turner.

Schedule:

March 30, at Hanover Area, 4:30 p.m.

April 4, Delaware Valley, 4:30 p.m.

April 6, at Wyoming Valley West, 4:30 p.m.

April 10, North Pocono, 4:30 p.m.

April 18, at Berwick, 4:30 p.m.

April 20, Dallas, 4:30 p.m.

April 22, at Liberty Invite, TBA.

April 24, at Coughlin, 4:30 p.m.

April 26, Lake-Lehman, 4:30 p.m.

April 28, at Western Wayne, 4:30 p.m.

May 1, at Nanticoke Area, 4:30 p.m.

May 3, at Hazleton Area, 4:30 p.m.

May 5, Abington Heights, 4:30 p.m.

May 8, Holy Redeemer, 4:30 p.m.