GRAND ISLAND — In volleyball, being a hitter is the glamorous role, but a head coach knows his hitter is only as good as his setter. Lucky for Grand Island, its setter is Tyler Hinamin.
The senior plays a big role on a Vikings team that enters a stretch that is crucial to their Niagara Frontier League title hopes.
“He’s been a great player for the past four years,” Vikings boys volleyball coach Bill Schultz said. “Setting in volleyball is huge, and without a good setter it’s hard to run an offense.”
Schultz said he experimented with Hinamin on the outside early in the season, but his ability to set the ball was too important to lose.
“I tried at the beginning of the year having him hit a little bit more, but he’s too good (at setting),” Schultz said. “To not have him touch every ball would be a mistake, so I decided to leave him setting and running the offense.”
Schultz said Hinamin is so essential to the Vikings’ success because he can improve the position of balls that suffer from passing that can be spotty at times.
“He’s moving around a lot,” Schultz said. “With our passing here and there, he can still better a ball enough to make a good hit for these guys that are not the best swingers, but players that can put a ball away when it’s a good set.”
Hinamin had a whopping 60 assists in a five-game win over Lockport on Wednesday, and Schultz said his setter was essential to the offense in the comeback win.
The victory gave the Vikings an 8-1 record in the NFL, moving them closer to a second straight league title. For Hinamin, winning another division title was always the goal in his senior season.
“It’s always different going into the season because I really don’t know what to expect losing a lot of guys,” Hinamin said. “We should win the NFL, which hopefully we’re in the process of right now.”
Grand Island lost first team all NFL hitter Jonas Stalyga to graduation, but the Vikings coach said this year’s squad is more focused and ready to go further this fall.
“The difference between last year and this year is that I have a whole group of guys that want to work hard,” Schultz said. “They’re all trying to push each other to get better, which is good.”
Schultz said his team has focused on serving a lot this season, citing Hinamin’s play as a good example of that focus. Hinamin had a big service game against North Tonawanda earlier in the year, taking the first eight points of the game against the Lumberjacks. His jump serve also powered them to a big win against Niagara-Wheatfield as well.
“His jump serve was big against Niagara-Wheatfield,” Schultz said. “(He) served them right off the court.”
Hinamin said he has worked on his serve and block in an effort to become a more balanced player.
“I feel like my jump serve has gotten a lot better, and my blocking skills have gotten a lot better since I started playing,” Hinamin said. “My swing is okay, too.”
With another run into sectionals on the horizon, Hinamin said he hopes the Vikings can learn from its loss to Eden last year.
“It’s a good learning experience and I feel like we’ll take that into sectionals,” Hinamin said. He said that Eden was an established volleyball program with a much bigger crowd at their match, and that getting back to sectionals is now the focus for the Vikings.
“Sectionals win,” Hinamin said. “NFL is that first one, but after that we want to win the Finals.”