MOUNT VERNON — Two years ago, Mount Vernon High School boys volleyball coach Alan Cassell knew he had to find a way to get Chris Ingersol and Carter Cassell on the floor at the same time.
With Carter, his son, he knew he could play him at multiple positions, but his best was as a setter. Coincidentally, Ingersol’s best position was also that of setter. Facing the dilemma head on, coach Cassell made the switch to a 6-2 offense, and the rest is history.
The Yellow Jackets have won 44 games since the change and are back in the state tournament for the second consecutive year.
“It works out well because it allows us to both be able to set, which is a good thing for our team,” said Ingersol. “Carter is our best setter, so it allows him to distribute the ball, but we also get to swing and hit in the rotation.”
Having players like Ingersol and Cassell running the floor opens up a powerful Yellow Jacket offensive attack. That has led to a belief they can win that runs deep within themselves.
“We have so many options,” said Cassell. “We can have confidence that they can do their job. As a setter, we act like the quarterback. We have to lead the team, be motivational. You can’t be too high and you can’t be too low.”
“I’m always 100 percent confident that when I put a ball out there, (our hitters) are going to get a swing on it and hopefully get a kill,” said Ingersol. “We have great hitters all around, so we feel comfortable setting the ball to any of them.”
Cassell and Ingersol have put together four strong years at Mount Vernon. Both played varsity as freshmen and worked their way into the lineup significantly as sophomores. Now, as seniors, they have one common goal — to win.
“I just like to be playing; I’ll do whatever it takes to help my team win,” Ingersol said. “It is difficult sometimes knowing where to be, but you also have to go with the flow of the game.”
“As long as I am playing, that’s all I care about,” Cassell said. “I’ll do whatever helps this team. I’m usually setting or hitting right side. We have other kids that do a great job at the other positions, so I do whatever helps us win.”
What Cassell has been able to accomplish has been no surprise. Many people had high expectations for him, which he has met and exceeded. Ingersol, however, has surprised many, including his teammates.
“Chris has improved so much from when we first started playing,” said Cassell. “He wasn’t really a setter when he first came in, but I started working with him, trying to show him the fundamentals. He is an athletic kid, so he caught on. He has turned into a leader. He can set the ball really well now, and we can keep the defense guessing.”
Ingersol credits his improvement to playing alongside the likes of Cassell and teammate Roger Melick.
“Carter and Roger have had a lot more experience playing club ball, so I’ve really taken the opportunity to learn a lot from them,” Ingersol said. “Having a player like Carter around helps the whole team. It gives the team confidence.”
Cassell knows when the Jackets step out onto the court, all eyes are on him. Teams are trying to shut him down, which is perfectly fine because he knows the talent of his teammates around him.
“It is definitely a challenge I like,” said Cassell. “Whenever teams are focusing on me, the guys get kills. It helps with solo blocks and whatever. I’m going to do all I can to help this team.”
The Jackets face Centerville in the Division I State Quarterfinals tonight, and the Elks would like nothing better than to avenge an earlier loss. The Elks also have a home-court advantage, which is a lot for the Jackets to overcome.
“We don’t really have any tricks (up our sleeves). We’re just going to play our best volleyball of the year,” said Cassell. “When we are playing well, we are tough to beat. We just want to come out, play our game and keep it simple. At this point, we can’t make any more mistakes. We have to play the best volleyball we’ve ever played.”
The match begins at 8:15 p.m.