Setting the tone: A crucial position for Beach teams in playoffs

The volleyball conference tournaments that begin this week mark the start of postseason play for many Virginia Beach high school teams. While the game doesn’t change in November, the stakes do.

Ocean Lakes junior Adreyune Husted (Courtesy Michael Boomer)
Ocean Lakes junior Adreyune Husted (Courtesy Michael Boomer)

The crowds are bigger and the room for error is smaller. The pressure feels tighter. A win means at least one more game. A loss ends a season.

Of the six players on each side of the net, which position proves most pivotal in the playoffs?

One spot on the floor literally sets itself apart.

“The setter,” Ocean Lakes boys coach Michael Boomer said without hesitating. “They’re the quarterback. They run the show. He has to play well for you to be effective. If he doesn’t, you’re in trouble.”

In the typical 5-1 offensive set run by most teams, one setter is featured as an every-play rotational player. The other five ‘attackers’ normally include three front-row hitters, a libero and another defensive specialist. In this system, the setter never subs out and usually touches the ball every play.

“He gets the passes,” Boomer said, “and if they’re not good passes, he has to make good plays out of them.”

“He needs to see everything on the court,” Bommer added. “Find the weaknesses and matchups. He has that power.”

The Dolphins clinched the Coastal Conference’s top seed and an automatic berth in the 6A South Region tournament in large part because of their play-caller.

Boomer’s setter is Adreyune Husted, one of the area’s most complete players at his position. Highly attentive and talented, he has a knack for making his teammates better.

He’s perfected Boomer’s system and acts as a coach on the court for the Dolphins.

“Adreyune allows me to focus on other elements of the game,” Boomer said. “I don’t have to worry about my setter making the right call or my offense being in the right spot. He takes care of that on the floor.”

“We’re a setter-driven league,” Boomer added. “And I’m lucky to have one of the best guys around.”

Bayside boys coach Dan Keros echoed Boomer’s belief about the position.

Given the scenario of two evenly matched clubs battling in the playoffs, Keros says the team with the better setter usually moves on.

“If it’s just two really good teams going at it, I’m going to put it on the setter,” Keros said. “Their decisions determine who gets the ball, how they get the ball. They can make the difference if they dominate the match.”

The Marlins rely on senior Sean Davidson, who’s now started at setter for three years.  Davidson’s experience at the position is an instrumental factor in pressure-filled games, according to Keros, whose team plays Cox on Monday.

“It’s real important for him to be on the same page as me,” Keros said, “and know what the defense is giving him.”

On the girls side, Princess Anne coach Craig Dooren says the setter is a floor general who has the most responsibility of any player on the court.

“They’ve got to be the right person to make the right decision every play,” Dooren said. “That’s the person studying other teams’ defenses. ‘Hey this is the other team’s strengths, go take it away.’ ”

His Cavaliers (24-2) have clinched the top seeds in the 5A Conference 9 and the 6A South Region behind solid performances all around the court.

Dooren acknowledged that every position has its own impact on each game, but the setter holds the ingredients to a recipe of a long playoff run.

His setter, Alyssa Presto, was key in Princess Anne’s run to last year’s state final. Now entering her third playoff appearance as a starer, the junior’s experience is a confidence boost for a team with championship aspirations.

“She knows what her hitters are capable of doing, and her hitters have the confidence that she’ll find them,” Dooren said. “They’re in sync, and she’s playing her best volleyball right now.”

Dooren said the position doesn’t get the recognition it deserves in a sport where flashy hitters and gaudy kill statistics dominate headlines.

“A lot of times, they don’t get the big accolades,” Dooren said. “But those who know the game understand just how important they are.”

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