Southside Daily’s Joe Saade will bring you a series of team spotlights at the end of every sports season.
Cox (20-5) 6A state semifinalist
Key moment of regular season: After a 3-2 loss to Bayside in the last game of the regular season, Zuidem said they had made so many mistakes that changes were a must before the playoffs. The next day at practice, the Falcons transitioned to a 6-2 offense, with Brad Creamer and Devin Flaherty handling setting duties. Grant Gilden switched roles from the setter to the middle. “It worked out perfectly,” Zuidema said. “From that point on we were clicking. It carried us through the state tournament.”
Key stat: Creamer showed his do-it-all ability all year and shined when it counted most, averaging 12.5 kills and 15 assists in four postseason games.
Defining moment of state semifinal (3-1 loss to James River): After Cox won the second set 25-21, tying the game at 1-1, the Falcons came out flat in the third set, falling 25-9. “They crushed us,” Zuidema said. “We were really trying to dig ourselves out of a hole in the fourth set (which the Falcons lost 25-21). They were a much more mature team. Our team was fairly young. They were more seasoned and poised to win the state championship.” The Rapids beat Ocean Lakes 3-0 in the state final.
Coach Jason Zuidema: “They were determined to not let anything get in their way of representing what Cox volleyball has been. Expectations are high. Guys want to make sure they did as well as they could. We had multiple things standing in our way — injuries, mixing up lineups — but we set the bar high and worked real hard. We accomplished what we wanted to do, which was to keep Cox volleyball on the map. They earned it.”
Unsung hero: Zuidema pointed to multiple players who adjusted to new roles on the fly before the postseason. After playing a reduced role during most of the regular season, Flaherty was called on to assume the second setter duties in the playoffs and delivered. “When we needed it, he was huge,” Zuidema said. Gilden took over a middle position, and senior Jordan Bernhardt earned the starting outside role during the team’s senior night game. “A lot of guys on the team came through, moved around, played different positions, took one for the team, and did what was necessary to do to get to where we got.”
Future: The Falcons will see major off-season turnover again with the graduation of top players Creamer, Bernhardt, Gildman, Jake Gibbs and Greg Hahn. Flaherty headlines the returnees, along with Cam Bailey, Tyler Gooch and Brett Wildman. “Future looks good,” Zuidema said. “We’re a young team. It will be another situation where graduating talent will make us put pieces together. Those who didn’t get all the playing time this year are capable of showing it next year”