Beaver County Christian coach Christen Adels has one simple goal for her 2013 boys volleyball squad.
"My goal is to keep everybody healthy," said Adels, who is in her fifth season as coach of the Eagles. "We have only eight players on our entire squad. It's clearly the smallest squad I've ever had."
But that shouldn't be a surprise when one looks at the school enrollment.
"We have fewer than 40 boys in our high school and eight are playing volleyball. We can't afford to have any injuries. That's what I've told the kids and anybody who asks about our team."
Injuries were obviously a factor last season, as the Eagles fell short of a WPIAL playoff berth after posting a 2-8 record in Class AA Section 1.
"We had our best two players out of the lineup for most of last season," Adels said. "We don't want to see a repeat of that."
Beaver County Christian opened Section 1 play with three victories, defeating Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, 3-1, Hopewell, 3-0, then upset Montour, 3-2, on Tuesday.
"We have our two biggest section matches this week," Adels said, referring to Tuesday's upset of Montour and a match tonight against powerhouse Ambridge Area. "Those two matches will tell us where we stand in the conference."
That's a tall task, as Ambridge is ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL, while Montour is No. 4. Adels squad is ranked No. 5. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is No. 7.
"Our section is clearly the strongest of the three Class AA sections," Adels said. "Four of the top seven teams in Class AA are from our section."
Section 1 is also the smallest of the three Class AA sections. The section was supposed to have six teams, but Bishop Canevin dropped its program just before the start of the season.
"I was so disappointed to see Bishop Canevin drop its program," Adels said. "A lot of schools have low numbers. I hope we don't lose any other teams."
Adels squad consists of two seniors, four juniors and two freshmen. The two seniors are Zach Verrett, a 6-foot outside hitter, and Alex Noyes, a 5-10 middle hitter.
"Zach rolled his ankle last year and missed half of the season," Adels said. "It blew up to the size of a softball. Both Zach and Alex are in their first full season of starting."
Will Townsend, a 6-0 junior opposite, is the other player who spent the 2012 season on the disabled list.
"Will has missed a season and a half," Adels said. "He tore an ACL during his sophomore year while playing soccer and missed half of that season. As a junior, he suffered a severe concussion in November and missed the rest of the school year.
"The concussion was so bad that Will had to drop out of school. He actually had to sit in his basement in the dark. He's repeating his junior year. We plan to petition the WPIAL for another year of eligiblity."
Adels considers Townsend "our best all-around player. He's by far our best defensive player and our best blocker."
The other three juniors are 6-3 middle hitter Jon Knab, 6-0 outside hitter Ethan Stahl and 5-11 setter Gib McCracken. All three are two-year starters.
"Jon is our best hitter," Adels said. "Ethan is a solid all-round player. Gib is learning to distribute the ball well."
The two freshmen are 5-10 outside hitter Quinn McCracken, Gib's younger brother, and 5-9 outside hitter Kai Brazzeal.
"Gib and Quinn are the last two of seven kids," Adels said. "Four of the seven have played for me."
Beaver County Christian turned in its best performance of the season at Saturday's North Hills tournament. The Eagles went unbeaten and claimed the title by defeating North Hills.
"It was so much fun Saturday watching the kids play at North Hills," Adels said. "They did a great job."