Deer Lakes boys volleyball coach Rick Tatrn isn't kidding when pointing out the Lancers have a young squad.
"We don't have any seniors," Tatrn said. "I've never had that in my 44 years as head coach. I've always had one or two seniors to build around."
Tatrn did list one senior on the roster during the preseason, but an injury ended his season before it began.
"Nick Noble blew out his knee during basketball season," said Tatrn, referring to a 5-foot-11 senior setter. "It's a big loss for us. We were counting on Nick to run our offense."
To make matters worse, another starter has been out with an ankle injury since the first week of the season. Hunter Signorella, a 6-3 junior middle hitter, has been out for three weeks.
"I don't expect Hunter back until the end of this week at the earliest, maybe the start of next week," Tatrn said. "That hurts with such a young team."
Despite the lack of senior leadership and the injury to Signorella, Deer Lakes is off to a 3-1 record in Class AA Section 2. The Lancers, No. 8 in the WPIAL Class AA rankings, swept Ford City and West Shamokin, and were swept by No. 2 Derry Area.
"Not having a senior has messed up the apple cart a little bit, but we're dealing with it," Tatrn said. "We are relying on our juniors for leadership."
Tatrn had to replace five starters who graduated. The top returnee is Jake Roberts, a 6-0 junior outside hitter who was voted second-team All-Section 2 last year.
"Jake is a three-year letterman and two-year starter," Tatrn said. "He's our go-to hitter."
Brandon Philistine, a 5-8 junior, returns at libero.
"Brandon is a hard worker who has become a team leader, along with Jake," Tatrn said. "We need both to step into that leadership role."
With the injured Noble out of the picture, Tatrn has switched to a 4-2 offense with Nick's younger brother Josh Noble, a 5-8 sophomore, and Tyler Lindgren, a 5-10 junior, splitting the setting duties.
"Both are young and inexperienced, but both are working hard and getting the job done," Tatrn said. "And both have a good attitude."
Scott Kelly and Adam Rothrauff are returning lettermen. Kelly is a 6-3 sophomore outside hitter. Rothrauff is a 5-10 sophomore back-row specialist.
"Scott played some last year and really came on at the end of the season," Tatrn said. "He's shown a lot of progress."
Mark Kopinski and Colin Simcoviak, a pair of 6-3 sophomores, have filled vacancies at middle hitter.
"Mark and Colin are both working hard," Tatrn said. "Mark has more experience considering he's been with our program since the seventh grade. Colin is a second-year player."
Cameron Guy, a 6-0 freshman, has also seen playing time in the middle.
"Cameron has shown some promise," Tatrn said.
Deer Lakes defeated Summit Academy Tuesday. That was the Lancers only match this week. They are also entered in Saturday's Hempfield tournament.
Deer Lakes has participated in two tournaments. The Lancers advanced to the playoffs at the Norwin tournament, but lost in the first round at the Derry Area tournament.
"We're working hard and getting better," Tatrn said. "There's no other way to do it."