David Jepson of Canisius High went through a gamut of emotions after breaking his leg this offseason playing volleyball, but self-pity wasn't one of them.
On the same weekend Jepson snapped both bones in his leg after his momentum carried him into a volleyball standard, another young volleyball star, Peter Brady of Orchard Park, suffered a life-altering accident. Brady broke his neck and suffered a spine injury after he dove into the shallow end of a friend's pool. He's been at ECMC ever since, paralyzed from the chest down.
"There are more serious things that have happened to people," said Jepson. "Like I know that same weekend Pete Brady had an unfortunate injury with his spine, and I knew mine wasn't that bad, so that helped me at least fight back."
Jepson was competing at the East Coast Championships in Richmond, Va. when he broke his tibia and fibula. He had a rod surgically implanted into his leg and was told he would be sidelined for six months. "My leg got caught under the net system. I was on the ground yelling for 30 minutes before the ambulance got there," he said.
Jepson's projected return by his doctors would have forced him to miss his senior year with Canisius, but he proved a quick healer. After a summer of rehab and workouts he was back in the lineup for the Crusaders' season opener Sept. 1 at the Clarence Tournament. He worked his way in, just playing in the back row. Canisius went on to win the title of the 16-team event.
"I'm happy I was able to stick with it because a lot of times I was really frustrated," he said. "I tried to keep working because I still wanted to play again. The toughest part is mostly knowing what you could do before and then trying to do it now and not being able to and watching other people being able to move."
Jepson is the reigning Player of the Year in the Monsignor Martin Association. He has designs on leading the Crusaders (21-4 last year) to their 13th Catholic playoff title in a row.
Canisius is a young team in terms of experience. Senior Alec Cowe is an outside hitter, who was second team All-Catholic. He's a good passer, defender and a crafty hitter. Junior Brian Costello has taken over as setter for the graduated Jack Fleming. The libero is senior Taylor Johnson. Mike Taboni and Zach Schurr return from last year. Sophomore Trever Gooch has worked his way into the starting rotation as one of the outside hitters.
"All those guys have had a really good preseason, and we're just trying to figure out some lineups that are going to work right now," said coach Tom Weislo. "We're on track so far to where we want to be this early in the season."
Jepson had 13 kills in Monday's win over Cardinal O'Hara. The Crusaders improve to 9-2 with Iroquois on tap today. Over the weekend Canisius played strong in reaching the finals of the Victor Tournament.
Brady has long road to recovery
Brady's mother, Jane, asked on Sunday night that whatever was written about her son's condition, "don't make it be a downer. His spirits are still good. He's an inspirational kid."
At the time of the accident, Brady was home for the summer after spending his freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh.
He spent the first month after his accident in the intensive care trauma unit at ECMC. Around the end of June he was moved into an acute care unit. Jane said the family is looking into moving him into an out-of-state rehab facility that specializes in spinal cord injuries.
Brady remains close to the local volleyball community. As a high school senior he earned first team All-Western New York honors for the Quakers and was a longtime member of the Eden Volleyball Club. He turned 20 on Monday.
Jane said her son still doesn't have a lot of movement, but he's showing signs of improving.
"ECMC is like this jewel. The people there are caring, talented and devoted," said Jane. "I don't have anything but great things to say."
A website has been set up for Brady: www.caringbridge.org/visit/peterbrady.
Class A: Frontier.
Class B: Lake Shore.
Monsignor Martin: Canisius.
ECIC I: Frontier (12-0)
ECIC II: Lake Shore (12-0)
ECIC III: Eden (12-0).
Niagara Frontier League: Grand Island and Lockport (11-1).
Frontier looks to fill the spots left after five starters graduated. Jake Gleason, an ECIC I all-star libero as a freshman, moves to setter. Senior outside hitter Spence Avery and middle hitter Derek Hosken are captains. Juniors Jeff Taylor and Dylan Durni, the younger brothers of former Falcon standouts, improved their games in the offseason through club. Junior middle Erik Hatten got his season off to an impressive start earning all-tournament at Clarence. Junior Peter Lotocki checks in as libero. The Falcons look for quality minutes from seniors Shawn Fischer, David Piniewski and junior Patrick Quinlivan.
Lake Shore won a real confidence-builder match, beating Frontier in three straight to start the season. The match featured long rallies and close games. "They're always a top team, this was kind of a good gauge of where we sit, and I'm glad we came out on top," said Eagles coach John Cordier.
Senior Billy Pinter is a returning All-WNY first teamer at setter. Pinter, along with middle hitter Ryan Joslyn and outside hitter Connor Govenettio are three-year members of the varsity. Roslyn was second team All-WNY.
At the Clarence Tournament, Lake Shore lost in the semifinals Canisius. They made a good showing at the Eden Tournament, falling to McQuaid of Section V in the quarters.
Look for Eden to be playing its best volleyball at the end of the season. Coach Robert Pierce said junior Jake Schlegel and senior Dakota Sheffield are good athletes who are looking to become more savvy and increase their volleyball IQ.
"I expect when they get going, we're going to be fine," said Pierce. "I think it's a very even year. In the A's and B's there are about five teams that are all going to be there. The overall level isn't as high where we want it to be collectively, but it's time for some of the younger guys to set up in and we'll see how it goes."
Senior Ryan Vondell is a returning ECIC III all-star, freshman Declan Pierce is an explosive player who was chosen to the USA Select A-1 Team. Six-foot-4 sophomore middle Hadyn Herc made the USA Select continual team.
NFL co-champ Lockport returns a pair of two-year starters, junior setter Jack Whalen and junior libero Eamno Yates. The Lions graduated seven and brings back a young roster with 10 juniors and two sophomores.
Around the ECIC
It's a small, yet talented, group at Orchard Park. The Quakers look to reclaim the Section VI Class A title after losing in the final the last two years.
Senior libero Trey Cimorelli is a returning first team All-WNY pick and the school record holder in digs. The Quakers returns a pair of first team ECIC I all-stars, outside hitters Kevin Donohue and Tyler Eagleton, both seniors. Cimorelli, Donohue and Eagleton are tri-captains and the team's most experienced players.
OP's first-year setter is junior Nolan McArdle. Senior Kenny Dudkowski is back for his second year and senior Joel Ross has been a quick study in his first year on the varsity.
A lot of coaches expect Clarence to have a big year.
Senior Chase Squires played with the Eden Volleyball Club 18s. Senior Devon Goeller gives the Red Devils a strong middle attack. Junior Brandon Hill can swing out of the right or left side.
"We have a lot of potential," said coach Kevin Starr. "The juniors were the top JV team in WNY for the past two years. We're hoping their success transfers to the varsity level."
Senior Calvin Crosby of Starpoint brings a polished game after an offseason in the Eden Volleyball Club's elite program. Junior Brett Kane will run the Spartans' new 5-1 offense. Eighth-grader Charles Palka begins his second year as a starter.
Lancaster senior Connor Nowak is an accomplished club player while Mike Spengler is a returning standout setter.
The Redskins will start a pair of freshman outside hitters, Jay Baumann and Ken Rudz.
West Seneca West will count heavily on senior Shaun O'Brien, an ECIC I second team all-star, four-year starter and last year's leading scorer.
Junior Anthony Podgorzak of Williamsville South earned second team ECIC II honors as one of the team's leading scorers from last year.
Cheektowaga's most experienced player is Ed Kerber, an ECIC III all-star and a three-year starter. Junior Noah McGhee has been on the varsity for two years.
Senior Kyle Krzemien was last year's leading scorer at Depew and junior Denis Vanini enters his third year as starting setter.
Six players return for Amherst, including 6-6 senior Alex Turecki, a second-team all-star who led the team in blocks and senior Gabe Radoccia-Feurstein, last year's leader in digs.
Maryvale juniors Kevin Kelly, Ryan Robida and Tyler Nosal were also teammates this offseason for the Southtowns Volleyball Club. Andy Murtha is the first-year coach of the Flyers.
Senior David Tharnish returns at middle blocker for Iroquois.
The only returning senior for Lancaster is right-side hitter Connor Nowak.
Hamburg coach Brian Carroll describes 6-5 middle blocker Connor Krolikowski as a "very complete player and solid blocker."
Another senior, Tony Guzzetta, is a two-year starter at libero, who is just as capable at setter for the Bulldogs.
First-year East Aurora coach Carl Cordes said he has a full range of players from freshmen to seniors with great chemistry. Junior Harry Hintz is a strong hitter from all positions and Dan Leman is a crisp passer with a strong count awareness.
Holland senior Storm Phillips is a three-year starter who can play a variety of positions.
Around the nets
. St. Francis has a young but athletic team. Senior co-captain Alex Warthling is a three-year starter at libero. Senior co-captain Taylor Walber and junior Tom Duszkiewicz bring two years experience at the net. Two freshman who will see plenty of minutes are Jake Kaempf and Nick Batchev.
. Kenmore West returns 6-foot-5 middle Mitch Roberts. On the outside are fellow seniors Nick Gara and Chris Dymond.