Larry Meehan could spend hours teaching the finer points of the game he loves.
Sometimes, though, the Hudson head boys volleyball coach probably wouldn’t mind ditching the fundamentals from time to time.
If such a thing would occur, Meehan, who has been involved in the program for approximately 15 years, would have a team full of experts rather than novices.
The Explorers are getting there. Hudson has some strong veterans coming back who have a greater understanding of how to play the game better than they did in previous years.
But, as always, the newbies continue to flock the court.
So back to the drawing board he goes. This time, though, he has some intriguing pieces to possibly lead the Explorers to their deepest run ever.
"Generally, we have a fairly experienced team," Meehan said. "But all of our guys, like most teams, are still learning.
"Hudson has a nice level of experience this season, but still, half our team features first-year players, so there is always a steep learning curve. We will hope for good health, as we have solid players in our rotation. But we are not particularly deep in any spot."
The Explorers finished 11-14 in 2018 after losing to Cleveland St. Ignatius 25-14, 25-21, 25-8 in a Ohio Boys Volleyball Association Division I North Region title match.
Hudson lost right-side hitter Cray Donoughe, defensive specialist Max Semenczuk and outside hitter Geoff Pollock to graduation.
"They will be missed, but we are shaping up to have a strong, competitive team this season based an accumulation of some experience and good performance," Meehan said.
The Explorers do have their most formidable front-row player back in the mix.
Senior outside hitter Matthew Gentry earned first-team all-region honors last season and second-team All-Ohio.
Gentry pans to continue his academic and volleyball careers at Lincoln Memorial University, a Division II program that is located in Harrogate, Tennessee.
"Matt has continued to improve over the club season," Meehan said. "Matt is a leader on and off the court. We'll look to him to lend his talents in all elements of the game."
Seniors Shane Chilcott, a middle hitter, and Aidan L’Hommedieu, a setter, earned all-region honorable mention last spring.
"They will be key players and leaders on our squad," Meehan said. "Both have shown continued improvement and have provided energy for the team in the preseason."
Juniors Michael Meehan (outside hitter) and Luke Karnofel (setter and right-side hitter) also are returning players who expect to play pivotal roles.
"Michael will be a key contributor as a primary passer, defender and hitting option," Meehan said. "Michael is coming off a club season that has boosted his skill and game knowledge.
"Luke will share the setting chores this season, but we are looking forward to the added punch that Luke's hitting and blocking will add to our front line."
Two other juniors also expect to make major contributions this spring. They are middle blocker Jack Torrence and defensive specialist Cameron Coy.
"Jack is still learning the game coming into his second season, but has shown nice progress and great potential in both attacking and blocking," Meehan said. "Cameron Coy will be an important cog in our back-row defense, as well as adding an effective serve."
Other players in the mix are seniors Norman MacKay (outside hitter), Jacob Gray (outside hitter and middle blocker) and sophomore Mitch Adkins (setter).
"Norman has worked hard over the preseason to earn time in the rotation," Meehan said. "Jacob is a flexible front-row player who will see time in all three front-row spots.
"Mitch made nice progress over the winter, getting the most out of his club season and putting himself in position to be a major contributor as a back-row setter and strong server."
Rounding out the rest of the team are seniors Michael "Marz" Zabala, Mason Pacenta (middle blocker), Jay Boyden (outside hitter) and Alan Goodloe (right-side hitter); juniors Evan Hunt (outside hitter) and Jaret Kline (defensive specialist); and sophomore Evan Planchet (defensive specialist).
"Marz was slated for a rotational role this season, but unfortunately, he broke his ankle in the preseason," Meehan said.
Meehan’s assistant is former Hudson and Cuyahoga Falls assistant girls volleyball coach Jamey Price, who enters his first year with the team.
"We were quite fortunate to add a very experienced coach in Jamey Price," Meehan said. "Jamey and I have played and coached together over multiple decades and he brings a strong understanding of the game and a positive mindset."
The junior varsity coach is Bob Kennedy, who enters his fourth season in that role.
Meehan certainly has a star to go to in Gentry. He also has some experienced players who can take the next step this season.
However, if one part of the machine breaks down, Meehan believes the entire machine can malfunction.
"We have good size and athleticism, so we are looking to have a strong serving, blocking and defensive squad," Meehan said. "Even with some excellent talents, this is truly a game where success is found as a team. Putting that sense of team together in a short time frame is our biggest challenge."
Meehan is a realist when it comes to the upcoming season. Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped him from dreaming big.
"We would like to win the public-school portion of our schedule," Meehan said. "Though there is no league championship, we will aim to win the home/away matchups against Suburban League schools [Stow-Munroe Falls, Kent Roosevelt and Brecksville-Broadview Heights].
"Otherwise, we are endeavoring to put ourselves in position to advance beyond the regional tournament. It will be a tough task as both St. Ignatius and [Massillon] Jackson return with very strong, experienced teams. But it should be fun."
Hudson is scheduled to visit Medina Tuesday in its 2019 debut. The Explorers are set to host Lakewood St. Edward Wednesday at Ray "Buck" Hyser Gymnasium.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.