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The Student News Site of Ocean Lakes High School

The Current

The Student News Site of Ocean Lakes High School

The Current

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Volleyball flourishes under Velazquez’s leadership

(from left) Donny Velazquez sets the ball with his teammates, Nathan Brock and Michael Domanski, preparing for a spike and the rest of the team looking on from the sidelines during a match against Landstown High School on Aug. 28, 2023. Photo used with permission from Diana Holloway.

Ocean Lakes Men’s Volleyball (OLMVB) soared to new heights this season, largely thanks to the play of senior setter Donny Velazquez. 

Regardless of the tough season-ending defeat suffered on Nov. 15, 2023, at the hands of Midlothian High School, Velazquez’s success, as well as his leadership off the court, helped steer the Dolphins to their first regional championship in years.

Though widely regarded as the best setter in the state, Velazquez’s focus was entirely centered around the team, not his individual accomplishments, of which there were many. 

“My goal this year was team first. I wanted to win and take this team as far as I could,” said Velazquez.

After losing the past two seasons in the regional semifinals, Velazquez and company led the team not only to a regional championship victory, but on a deep run in the state tournament. 

“Donny’s skills were what propelled us to the state semi-finals. He excels in every aspect of volleyball, and his setting ability is truly exceptional,” said sophomore Josh Ng.

The countless wins over the course of the season were the product of hours of unseen work starting in the off-season. At the helm of this effort, yet again, was Velazquez, showing up to practice early to help make his teammates better for the season ahead. 

“We had the pieces, but we had to work hard to build them into a great team. Coming to practice early, working with these guys, setting them balls, getting them reps and working on individual skills were crucial to our success,” said Velazquez. 

As a setter, his role on the court became parallel to his leadership role within the group. Though adept at most every aspect of the game, his main job was to set up outside hitters Barrett Scharfe and Vincent Yi, as well as opposite Nathan Brock, for spikes. Similarly, he motivated the team off the court, and set them up to be their best at all times.

“He’s one of the most dedicated and passionate teammates I’ve ever had. He’s always recording games, analyzing film and finding areas for improvement for the entire team,” said Vincent. 

Without Velazquez ‘s help, many of the team’s less experienced players may not have become such integral parts of the team’s success. 

“Everyone followed his lead on the court. His attitude rubbed off on the rest of us. No doubt in my mind, without him, we couldn’t have gone as far as we did,” said junior Ben Tignor. 

After a hot start to the season, the team hit a rough patch, losing back to back matches against First Colonial and Princess Anne High School. 

Velazquez believes these losses were an integral part of the team’s deep playoff run, and allowed them to be at their best in high pressure moments. 

“The PA loss sat with everyone for the entire season. Having that humbling experience and that rough patch really helped us in the long run,” said Velazquez. 

Having been around the team even in middle school as a stat keeper, OLMVB has been a massive part of his high school career. As a four-year starter, he’s had a tangible impact on the program as a whole. 

“Velazquez has left a profound mark on OL Volleyball, not only as a great player, but a role model that many underclassmen look up to. He’s a great source of inspiration and I’m confident that he will continue to be,” said Vincent. 

The underclassmen who hope to carry on OLMVB’s success in the coming years echo this sentiment.

“Velazquez’s presence on the team was truly a blessing, and I aspire for future Ocean Lakes Men’s Volleyball teams to uphold his legacy with the same level of excellence,” said Josh. 

As for what Velazquez hopes to have left behind, it has little to do with individual players and everything to do with the winning mindset that he hopes has rubbed off. 

“Never be satisfied with being good enough. I hope my extra effort sat with the team and showed them they can always work harder, they can always be better. Never be content with winning just one game,” said Velazquez. 

Having won First Team All-Region honors, there are likely more awards in the near future for Velazquez. On top of that, whether he chooses to pursue it or not, his stellar play this season has opened up doors for him to potentially play in college. 

“I have a few calls with a few coaches, I have to see what I like about each school, but [playing in college] is definitely something that’s piqued my interest recently, so we’ll have to see what happens,” said Velazquez. 

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About the Contributor
Nash Phillips
Nash Phillips, News Editor
Nash Phillips is a first-year journalist for The Current and a junior. He is a fanatical follower of all things sports, and he hopes to pursue sports writing at The Current and beyond. Nash also plays basketball at Ocean Lakes and hosts his own sports podcast. He is very outgoing, is an avid debater and loves to keep up with politics and current events.

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