By JONATHAN DUNCAN, WARREN MAYES
Francis Howell Central spikers poised for another big season
Double-digit scores and high-fives are regular sights when one watches the Francis Howell Central boys volleyball club put in work on the floor.
The Spartans won a state title in 2012, won the GAC South Conference championship in 2015 and already are well on their way to another banner season this spring.
Howell Central began the middle of April firmly perched in second place with a 10-4 mark and just two games behind rival Francis Howell North in the conference race.
“We have got off to a pretty good start and in all six rotations we’ve got somebody that can do the job,” Francis Howell Central coach Mark McAfee said. “The kids play together well, they like each other and they support each other for the most part.”
The Spartans came out of the box rolling in their first four matches as they defeated conference foes Fort Zumwalt South, Francis Howell, Fort Zumwalt East and Fort Zumwalt North in matches played from March 24 to March 31.
Next was a two-day appearance in the St. Louis Classic Tournament on April 1-2. In the Classic, the Spartans faced top area teams from Class 3 and Class 4.
Howell Central knocked off Ritenour [25-6, 25-18] and Bayless [25-9, 25-10] on April 1 to win its first two matches in four straight sets before losing a hard fought three-set match to Class 3 power St. Mary’s to wrap up the opening day of tournament play.
On the final day of play, Central defeated Eureka and Mehlville in four sets before falling to archrival Howell North in its last match of the tournament in three sets.
This season, senior Hunter Buckman and junior Nathan Goestenkors are providing the Spartans with strong serving to start rallies.
Buckman has an 85-percent serve average and had 10 aces heading into mid-April. Goestenkors is serving at a blazing 96-percent clip. Connor McAfee also has been strong with10 serving aces.
Goestenkors, a 6-4 outside hitter, has been strong along the front line with a team-leading 71 kills and an average of almost three kills per game.
Buckman, the Spartans’ other big outside hitter at 6-foot-2, has 43 kills and is knocking down nearly two kills per game.
The front line defense for the Spartans is led by Buckman, Goestenkors, 6-foot-6 junior middle blocker Parker Zelei, and junior middle blocker Collin King.
Junior libero/defensive specialist Japu Mawi anchors the back line for Howell Central. Mawi has been the Spartans’ saving grace in the back court, averaging just fewer than 5.5 digs per game and recording almost 190 headings into late April.
Other key contributors for the Spartans’ early success are junior right side/outside hitter Nathan Schroeder, junior setter Max Jarus and junior middle hitter Connor Rohde.
Central is not particularly strong at any one spot, but the Spartans have a 15-player roster that is two-deep at every spot on the floor and gives the club flexibility and depth in long matches and tournaments. Those qualities should pay off again in the postseason.
“One of the hardest things is getting the kids enough work in practice so they can actually get in a game and contribute,” McAfee said. “I think our strength is that at all six rotations we’ve got somebody that can do the job.”
Last season, after winning the GAC South title, the Spartans advanced to the Class 4 quarterfinals, finishing at 25-10-2.
Once again this spring the expectations are just as lofty for this senior-laden club.
“You win 25 games, it’s a pretty good season,” McAfee said. “We hope we’re going to match that or do better than that this season. Our goal every year is to win conference and we’re a little behind the eight ball with Howell North taking the first of the two-game series there. So, hopefully we can continue to beat the teams we need to beat in conference and hopefully we’ll play them at home this year and it will be for the conference championship.”
New football coach takes helm at Francis Howell High
Westminster Christian Academy’s varsity football coach Cory Snyder announced Tuesday, April 12, that he has accepted the head coaching position at Francis Howell High.
Snyder, who has led the Class 4 Wildcats as head coach for the last five years, will be leaving Westminster on July 1.
Snyder, 36, acknowledged he had mixed emotions about the decision.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” Snyder said. “I’m excited to get going but there’s a little bit of sadness, too. This is the only place I’ve ever worked. I’ve been here 15 years. I came here right out of college. This is my first move. I just felt like I needed to make a change and grow and get a bit uncomfortable and continue to grow.”
Snyder takes over a Vikings program that was impressively built by coach Bryan Koch, who resigned Feb. 26. Koch, 34, led Francis Howell for nine years. Koch, a 1999 Francis Howell graduate, went 72-33 in his time leading the program. Snyder met his new players the same day he met with those at Westminster. The Wildcats were not surprised by the news.
“It kind of leaked out last week. The guys all knew about it but it was good to finalize it and make it formal,” Snyder said.
Snyder began teaching and coaching football at Westminster in 2001. He came to Westminster after completing his undergraduate degree at Washington University, where he played football for the Bears.
In 2002, he was named defensive coordinator for the Wildcats. Those were the formative years for Westminster’s football program, said Head of School Tom Stoner.
Snyder said he has enjoyed seeing the program prosper.
“I remember when it was all just starting,” Snyder said. “I have been involved in most of the major moments of the program. That’s been pretty special. That made it a hard decision to leave.”
But Snyder said he thought that move would be a good opportunity for him and his family.
“When I saw Bryan stepped down, and I don’t know him personally but I have a lot of respect for him, it was intriguing to me,” Snyder said. “We live in that district. My kids are in the third grade and second grade. So that was important.
“I thought it was worth a phone call and email. The more I learned about it, it became more appealing. Doors were opening and I went in that direction.”