Growing up in a house with athletic older brothers, Zach Sindoni wanted to blaze his own trail, and he found it on the volleyball court at Haverhill High, developing into an accomplished setter.
“I got into volleyball when I was in the eighth grade,’’ said Sindoni. “My brother Alex was a soccer star and I wanted to be remembered for something myself, so I dedicated myself to volleyball.’’
He certainly made a name for himself among the coaches in the Merrimack Valley Conference, who voted the 5-foot-11 Sindoni the conference MVP after he led the Hillies to a perfect regular season and a second straight MVC title. Haverhill (21-1) fell to Cambridge Rindge and Latin in a 3-2 thriller in the North semifinals.
All the glory generally goes to the hitters in volleyball, but the key position is that of a setter, according to longtime Haverhill coach Bill Kaste, who likened the position to a point guard or quarterback.
“It’s the most important position, and I get to be around everything,’’ echoed Sindoni. “Everyone likes to hit, but it’s a better feeling to get the set perfect than it is to just hit the ball.’’
As a freshman, Sindoni started at libero, as a defensive specialist on the back row, but as a sophomore he filled a team void in the setter spot, and his athleticism and good hands made him a perfect match for the position.
“He is by far the best setter I’ve ever had,’’ said Kaste. “He can distribute the ball almost anywhere on the court.’’
Sindoni finished the year with 428 assists in more than 1,200 attempts, an outstanding ratio at the high school level, according to Kaste.
The willing recipients of all that distribution were a talented group of hitters who put away kills at a torrid pace: The Hillies featured five players with over 100 kills this season.
Senior Drew Caruso, a returning Globe All-Scholastic, was the leader of the bunch (200 kills), followed by seniors James Murray, Kevin Hirschfeld, and Tom Oliveira and junior Dylan Copeland.
“We had so many hitters, and Zach did a great job of keeping everyone happy and also running an offense,’’ said Kaste. “I don't remember ever having that many hitters with more than 100 kills.’’
Part of what made the Hillies so good the last two seasons was the commitment the seniors put into volleyball, but much of that was born out of friendship and closeness.
“They saw their potential, and gravitated towards the game and dedicated themselves to it, and were without a doubt the most skilled group I have ever had,’’ said Kaste, in his 19th year coaching boys’ and girls’ volleyball at Haverhill, and a recent inductee into the Mass. Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame.
The group played sand volleyball either at the beach or on the backyard court of former all-scholastic teammate Brett Pettis. In the winter there was Junior Olympic Club Volleyball, followed by the high school season in the spring.
“We have all been friends for so long, we were always doing something together,’’ said Sindoni. “The saddest part is we can’t play together anymore.’’
The loss to Cambridge was a bitter pill to swallow for the defending sectional champs, and last year’s state runners-up, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort or execution on Sindoni’s part: He tallied 66 assists in the two postseason games, which included a win over Chelmsford, on only 146 attempts.
“He really came to play for us in the tournament,’’ said Kaste.
Volleyball isn't over completely for Sindoni. He will still play at the beach and the backyard court, though he prefers the indoor game.
“Beach is only two players. I’d rather have all my friends playing on my team, and it’s more intense indoors,’’ he said. “But I just like volleyball in general; I can’t explain it.’’
He will continue playing indoors in the Bay State Games open division, and hopes to pursue playing at the collegiate level after a year at Northern Essex Community College, where he will try to keep carving out his own athletic legacy.