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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

Keller Comes Home

At 22-years of age, Alex Keller knows he is in a very unique and good position. After all, not too many people his age get a chance to be a varsity coach. And even fewer people his age get to coach the team they played for.

But Keller has that chance and he wants to make the most of it.

Keller, a member of the Kenmore West High School Class of 2011, has taken over as the head varsity coach of the Blue Devils boys’ varsity volleyball team.

“It means a ton. And I think that I’m in a unique position as a 22-year-old, coaching people who are only four or five years younger than me,” said Keller, who previously coached the Ken-West JV team, “because I can kind of relate to them. I can be kind of a players coach, but at the same time I think I command enough respect to be able to keep a balance there.”

Opening with a win over rival Kenmore East on Sept.2, the Blue Devils felt the sting of their first loss four days later against North Tonawanda.

Admittedly not playing up to their potential in games two and three against NT, the Blue Devils know they have more inside of them and it will be up to captains Adam Pray, Jacob Pray and Vito Schiralli to pull their teammates together.

“I have a lot of faith in them,” Keller said. “But they’ve got to be more vocal. They’ve got to be more positive these next couple games because a lot of times when we went on bad runs (against NT), we made a mistake or two, we let that snowball into five-six point runs. And we can’t afford that against good teams like North Tonawanda and especially Lockport.”

Though all on the quiet side by nature, Schiralli said that he and the Pray’s know it’s up to them to step up and be those voices of leadership.

“Yeah, being captains we’ve got to step up and try to bring together everyone on the team any way possible,” Schiralli said.

Schiralli, a junior, will play middle hitter/blocker. The Pray’s, both seniors, shared the setting duties last season, but now the responsibility of running the offense falls to Jacob. Adam has now shifted to outside hitter.

The change in Adam Pray’s job description came about after Kyle LaPlante was unable to return due to his plans to play college baseball.

Tyler Aquilina and Tal James also opted not to return. Though all three would have certainly helped, the Blue Devils are taking the correct mindset by focusing on who is on the team, as opposed to who has departed.

Returning are seniors Carlos Gonzalez and Jake Hooton, who will be playing libero, will also be playing major roles this season for the Blue Devils.

Saying that the team has unquestioned respect for Keller as the head coach, Schiralli said the fact that Keller isn’t that much older and is a former Blue Devil himself helps the guys see Keller as someone they can also trust as a friend, as well as respect as a coach.

“I feel like it brings the players and Alex together a lot,” Schiralli said. “It really shows us that he cares because he was right in the same position we were in not that long ago. We can tell by his enthusiasm and the way he tries to get players riled up that he wants to win just as much as we do. That helps carry a lot of energy over to us.”

Chris Schwenk, Ben Epstein, Dakota Smith, Matt Book, Alex Rose, Colin Wilby, Ryan Emler and Ben Bissell complete the Ken-West line up.

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