Reflections of a champion: Kakos believes team-first mentality was key for Central York
In sports, it's typically the stars who garner the most of the attention.
While the Central York boys’ volleyball team certainly had its share of stars during a banner 2017 season that was capped earlier this month with a PIAA Class 3-A state title, the Panthers' success was fueled by every single player who stepped on the court.
The team featured big hitters, such as Cole Johnson, Braden Richard and Ben Seebold, but also got big contributions from setter Carter Luckenbaugh and libero Zak Kakos. All five of of those players were recently named to the All-District 3 Class 3-A Teams.
Role players such as Grant Cash, Drew Anderson and others also filled in capably during the campaign.
Now, given some time to reflect, Kakos firmly believes no single Central York player could claim sole responsibility for the team’s success.
That fact is truly what made this season’s journey — from the York-Adams League regular season, to the league playoffs, to the District 3 playoffs and finally to the PIAA playoffs — so satisfying for the group as a whole.
“It was really a collective effort of different guys doing different things together to make sure that we won,” Kakos said. “All of our roles were to make everyone else’s roles as easy as possible.”
Sure, it’s easy to highlight a player the caliber of Johnson, who is getting NCAA Division I looks from many of the nation's top programs. As Kakos points out, however, without a solid pass and a solid set, Johnson may not have accumulated as many of his team-leading kills.
That team-first mentality has always been a staple of the Central York boys’ volleyball program, which has seven PIAA titles and 14 total PIAA finals appearances over its rich history.
“As a libero, I want to pass and dig as much as possible so that our hitters could do their job,” Kakos said. “And I want to do my job as well as I can so Carter can get the ball to the places for other players so that their job is as easy as it can be.”
Foundation laid last July: The building blocks for this year’s title run can be traced back to almost a full year ago. Last July, all of the key players on this year’s state championship squad held a meeting during club nationals in Dallas, Texas. A discussion of goals for the 2017 season was a main topic.
Coming off the heels of a 2016 season in which the Panthers failed to earn a berth into the PIAA playoffs, motivation was easy to drum up in that room. The Central players knew they had the talent and ability to accomplish great things. A bucket list of lofty goals was debated and quickly accepted.
“Winning the league, winning the county (playoff), winning the district and then winning the state … that was the goal and that was the mindset from that day forward,” Kakos said. “And that was back in July 2016 up until June 10. So for almost an entire year we were preparing every day for that.”
Turning attention to next season: Now that the Panthers have checked off all of those goals, the attention turns to next season. Seniors such as Seebold, Anderson, Cash, Luckenbaugh and Kakos won’t be around to help in that endeavor.
Even without those standouts and leaders on the court, Kakos, who is heading to Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, to play libero, still expects the program to be in a similar position when next season begins.
“At Central York, the expectation is always to compete your hardest in games and in practice,” Kakos said. “So I think if they compete hard every day in practice, and the new guys grow into leadership roles, we will see them playing at Rec Hall again (next year).”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.