When they step onto a volleyball court, there is nothing menacing about the presence of Jared Chin and Jonathan Lee. As two of the smallest players on the Newton South High squad, the rising seniors stand under 5 feet 10, and have the appearance of any ordinary high school kid.
“When you go to a game you don’t pick those two guys out thinking they’re going to be the guys that are going to get it all done for you,” Newton South coach Todd Elwell said with a chuckle.
But the 5-8 Lee — who sports a 32-inch vertical leap — has a warning message for his opponents: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
What can’t be seen is their uncanny volleyball IQ, coupled with internal engines that carried the Lions to an undefeated season this spring, capped off with a 3-0 victory over defending champion Agawam High for the Division 1 state title.
“They play the chess match that goes on during volleyball,” said the nine-year head coach, whose squad finished the season ranked 16th in the nation. “I like the fact that they’re not just physically playing the game but they’re very much mentally in tune with what they need to do, and they follow game plans really well and can make adjustments.”
Elwell calls Chin and Lee the heart and soul of the team, bringing outstanding emotion and energy that rubs off on everyone in the building.
“Whenever we get a point you can see either of us going crazy,” said Lee, who racked up 179 kills and 42 aces this spring. “With all that energy it pumps everybody up, and that keeps everyone’s momentum going.”
The Globe All-Scholastic notched a team-high 13 kills in the state final, jumping and screaming with each point tallied. He and his dependable setter had an unbreakable chemistry going, which they have been building on for years.
“I think because I play year-round with Jonny, we click together most days, and it definitely helps during the state finals to be on the same page,” said the 5-9 Chin, the Globe’s Athlete of the Year in volleyball, who finished with 669 assists and 44 aces.
Over the last three years, the pair have played on nearly every team together — school and club. And they never stop.
The day after Newton South captured the state title, they began practicing for their summer club team, the Boston Hurricanes.
Summer ball is something Chin and Lee look forward to, as it gives them the opportunity to play a different variation of the game. The Hurricanes play a nine-person format, and compete in numerous tournaments nationwide, including the second annual Boston Spike Off, which was held at Newton South last weekend.
Nine-player volleyball was popularized in the United States by Chinese immigrants, and provides a much different feel than the traditional six-person game. For example, there are no rotations, with each player having a set position; the net is lower; the court is bigger; and jump-serves are not allowed.
“It’s definitely a faster game,” said Spike Off director Harry Aue, one of the Hurricanes’ founders in the early 1970s. “There’s so many more people and so many more options for offensive sets.”
The Newton South captains love connecting with their roots and each appreciate the alternate format.
“To be honest, I actually like the nine-man game a lot better than the six-man because it’s a lot more intense,” said Lee. “There are more people on the court so it’s a little more crowded, but that just means more friends to be around all day, and it’s always great hanging around more kids.”
There is also no age limit.
Chin and Lee play on a high school-age squad for the Hurricanes, but they face off against adults on a regular basis. In Saturday’s Spike Off, the duo finally experienced defeat for the first time in recent memory, although the opposing squad was composed of men in their 20s and went on to win the tournament.
Chin, whose father, Jeff, is the Hurricanes’ president, said he loves playing against adults because “they know so much more about the game, and that makes it more competitive.”
Chin, Lee, and six other Newton South players will compete through the summer with the club, building up to the national nine-man tournament held over Labor Day weekend in Las Vegas.
In the fall, they’ll play on the Newton South squad, then play club in the winter before hitting the high school court again next spring.
The Lions graduated only two seniors, but Lee said they will have to work even harder to defend their title and keep the team’s undefeated streak alive.
“We’ll have a target on our back,” said Lee. “Every team will be driving to beat us because they want to beat the defending state champions.
“Even though we have a bunch of returning players, we still have to practice hard, go at 110 percent and put everything we have into it, since for most of us it will be our last year playing.”
A strong girls’ squad
for Bay State Games
Holly Adams was a nightmare for Medway High girls’ volleyball coach Gary Patch last fall. In three matches, the 6-foot Hopkinton High junior totaled 47 kills, 34 digs, 4 blocks, and eight aces, and the Hillers won nine out of 10 games against the Mustangs.
This summer, Patch is more than excited to have Adams return to his Southeast Bay State Games squad, as the pair hope to defend their gold medal run from last summer.
“Holly is certainly one of the stronger outside hitters in New England, and what makes her more valuable than most of the other players is her defensive skills,” said Patch, who also won gold coaching the Central team in 2012. “She’s just one of the best all-around players that there is in all aspects of the game.”
Adams is among several Medway High rivals also playing for Patch’s club team, SMASH, where he trains them before having to face them in the fall.
“I love making these kids better players, but I know that I’ll be going against them and it will be a challenge,” said Patch, in his third year as Medway’s head coach. “But even though they get better and better, I’m much more interested in their success.”
According to Patch, the 17-and-under SMASH squad has been one of the most successful groups he’s ever coached, having won several tournaments this spring, including the New England Regional Juniors Championship on May 4. This week, the club is playing in the girls’ junior national championships in Minnesota before Adams and three other SMASH players — Hanna Engstrom (Hopkinton), Lizzie Taylor (Medfield), and Alison Sullivan (Dedham) — suit up for the Southeast team upon their return.
“I think we’ll have a very strong team,” said Patch. “We have four players from the best team in New England on it, so I think we have a pretty good shot, but the Bay State tournament is getting stronger every year.”
The Bay State Games volleyball matches are scheduled to be played on July 12 and 13 at the University of Massachusetts Boston.