2012-01-12 / News

Sophomore will tryout for team usually occupied by upperclassmen

Garrett Bucklin is only 15, but got plenty of experience from last year’s title run

Garrett Bucklin last year led the North Kingstown High School junior varsity team to the state championship, and this year the sophomore will try out for the varsity squad. 
PHOTO BY MARGO SULLIVAN Garrett Bucklin last year led the North Kingstown High School junior varsity team to the state championship, and this year the sophomore will try out for the varsity squad. PHOTO BY MARGO SULLIVAN When the Skippers’ volleyball team holds varsity tryouts in a few weeks, Jamestown sophomore Garrett Bucklin, 15, will bring his A-game.

“I’m looking forward to the season,” he said. “I’m going to do the best I can.”

Garrett, who led the junior varsity team to the 2011 state championship, has stayed sharp with competitive volleyball and pickup games throughout the offseason. Over the summer, he spent two weeks in Italy with the Goodwill Ambassadors Volleyball Tour. Then it was back to Rhode Island and the Newport Volleyball Club for Monday afternoon matches at First Beach.

Two weeks ago, he helped his club team, the Blast, grab first place in a New England tournament. On Saturday, the Blast lost a chance to repeat with back-toback tourney wins, going down in the semifinals. But Sunday, he was back on the court at the North Kingstown High School gym for the open captain’s practices.

He rates his chances of making the senior varsity squad at “50-50.” His underclassman status is working against him, he said. The senior varsity is typically for juniors and seniors – as a sophomore, he’s a little young for that level.

“I’ll have to be exceptional,” he said. Last year’s senior varsity fielded a strong team. The Skippers made the postseason, but lost their first playoff game.

Garrett sees the tryouts as a winwin situation. If he makes the senior varsity, he’ll be taking a big step up. He’s not had any game experience at the senior varsity level yet because unlike some other Division I sports, volleyball doesn’t utilize “swinging,” the practice of inviting some junior varsity players to sit on the varsity bench and play some minutes.

And if he doesn’t make the cut this year, he’ll enjoy some new opportunities on the junior varsity team. As the setter, he takes the passes and sets up the ball for the hitter. But he’d like to try a new position and be the hitter himself, he said.

He’s had some scoring opportunities on loose balls, but the chances to spike the ball have been few.

Garrett loves volleyball for the camaraderie as well as the technique, but he’s also thinking about a long-term goal, he said. He might like to play at the collegiate level. Penn State has one of the premier men’s volleyball programs, he said. (The Nittany Lions are ranked No. 7 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association preseason poll.)

By playing with the Blast, which is an elite club, Garrett will have a better chance of being recruited for a college team, according to his mother, Laura Hosley.

Hosley, who coached the unified volleyball team at North Kingstown High, said the clubs do showcase the talented players, as they come up the ranks.

“He’s got a good shot,” she said, because he’s such a good player. But his dream is still ambitious, she added, because although the women’s college game is booming, comparatively few schools offer a men’s volleyball program.

Garrett currently plays with the under-17 Blast team. He plays a year ahead of his chronological age.

“I’d definitely say it’s higher level than a high school team,” he said, but he added the clubs don’t always have an edge over the school teams. “It really depends on the club.”

The Blast draws Division I players from Hendricken, Coventry, Exeter-West Greenwich and East Greenwich. He faced them in high school competition.

“A couple of them are the best players in the state,” he said.

According to Garrett, his best volleyball achievements came in the Blast’s tournament victory in December and last year’s junior varsity high school state championship.

Garrett still stays active with pickup volleyball games at the Lawn Avenue School and in Peace Dale.

He likes the doubles (two-ontwo) pickup games best because he has more control over the match’s outcome, he said. That was the format he played at First Beach over the summer.

“Probably with twos, you have more control over how you do,” he said. According to Garrett, in a doubles game, each player owns 50 percent of every play. By comparison, in a team match, with six players on each side, he does a lot less in his role as the setter.

“I’m in every play, but the setter really has a limited amount to contribute,” he said. It’s really up to the hitter to finish the play and score.

Garrett also plays other pickup formats. He attends a weekly adult pickup game at Peace Dale Elementary.

That’s basically for players 19 and older, and they have preference, so he has to wait to see if he will be admitted. He gets in, if the gym’s not full.

“You line up and count off one to six and that’ll be your team for the night,” he said. If the numbers don’t work out to an even six, they play fives or fours.

“Sometimes, we do a drill – winners fours,” he said. “That’s basically a four-on-four game. The winner stays on.”

Garrett started playing volleyball in pickup games and went out for a team in eighth grade. He also likes playing volleyball outside.

“Oh, yeah, I like it better,” he said. “If you have to dive for a ball, it won’t hurt so much.” He also likes to use the environment to advantage.

“Outdoors, you use the wind, the sun and you hit the ball in different ways,” he said.

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