This spring the leadership mantle has fallen to McAfee and McAfee, the Spartans lone returning senior starter, has provided that and plenty more through the first five weeks of play.
McAfee, a 5-10 leaper that starts at outside hitter, has been the Spartans go-to go guy on offense leading the club in kills, and is ninth in the area in kills, averaging 3.74 per game.
Francis Howell Central Coach Mark McAfee (Connor’s father) has been thanking the volleyball gods that Connor has been up to the challenge and has been the backbone of the Spartans offense and defense.
“We’re a young team with only four seniors and Connor’s basically the only returning senior from last year’s team that won 25 games,” McAfee said. “It’s one of those things where we really rely heavily on Connor and his leadership for the younger kids as well as the new kids that have been on varsity. It would be totally different (for us) this year if we didn’t have him.”
It has been nothing short of a outstanding senior season to date for the younger McAfee, as he makes opposing defenses uncomfortable with his ability to position and set himself near the net to get big hits and score points for Central match after match.
The senior jumping jack has a 42-inch vertical leap that is virtually impossible to prepare for or stop when he has it working well.
“What really helps is I have a really strong vertical jump and early in the season, I struggled a bit with timing and position on it but lately, I really feel like I’ve come together with that,” Connor said. “It’s really all about timing when you go up to hit, and I’ve really come to terms with getting my timing down.”
Getting good high sets from the back line and more chances to score has also allowed Connor to get the most out of scoring chances along the front line.
“When he gets his opportunities, he is making the most of them, which really drives our offense,” McAfee said.
Not only front line play is a strength for Connor, his serving has become a big part of the Spartans offense as well.
He is third in the area in aces averaged per game and leads the team in aces with 26.
Being adaptable with his serve has allowed Connor to keep the ball on the court consistently and score aces at a steady rate off the serve, using a variety of jump serves.
“It has really kept the opposing teams on their toes,” Connor said. “Sometimes, I will jump serve and if I see they can pass that ball, I just go with the jump float which a jump serve without the topspin on the ball, and I’ll go to a mix of different serves to keep them off balance. The jump serve is usually my go-to serve.”
McAfee said that the biggest improvement in Connor’s game has come on the defensive end with passing off service returns.
“I would say probably his back row play and his passing has really improved from last year,” McAfee said. “He’s much better this year, which is a blessing to us.”
The strong senior season has been fun for Connor and he has enjoyed helping his team excel with a 13-6-1 mark, heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
“Senior year is going well,” he said. “I’m really having fun with my team and I’m really happy to play with less knee pain this year, my knees are feeling healthier than they have been in my four years and that he helped my flexibility and jumping, so I’m really happy with where I’m at.”
College is in the future for Connor after his senior season ends. He has offers from St. Charles Community College and Missouri Baptist University.
Volleyball and being a part of the volleyball scene at Howell Central has been in the younger McAfee’s life since he was in grade school.
To be playing as a Spartan now is the culmination of a wonderful life-long dream for him.
“I’ve been coming to these games (at Central) and my dad would bring me here since I was a little kid,” Connor said.
“This (Howell Central) has really been my second home, so just being here is a joy and I love playing here and I always dreamed about being on varsity and just being able to play on the big court and I just really wanted to be out there and let people watch me play.”