Latin’s Bogdan Ivanov growing into his talent
Bogdan Ivanov’s kills have a certain sonic quality to them.
When the Boston Latin junior leaps in the air and connects with his left hand, it sounds like the first burst of musket fire during a Patriots Day reenactment.
When the ball hits the floor less than a second later, it’s the echo of that boom traveling across Lexington Green.
That sound resonated through the Boston Latin gym 16 times Wednesday in the Wolfpack’s 3-1 win over Acton-Boxborough, and it’s a sound as imposing as Ivanov’s height. He stands 6-foot-8, and the combination of his height, power, athleticism, and lefthanded swing makes him one of the most talked about hitters in the state among opposing coaches.
“He’s probably a hitter unlike most of the hitters in the state,” Boston Latin coach Konst Dimov said.
Ivanov joined the team in eighth grade when he was already about 6-foot-3. He didn’t become a big contributor until his freshman year, but has since developed into the Wolfpack’s primary offensive weapon, and has propelled them to a 5-0 start and a No. 4 ranking in the Globe’s Top 20. Ivanov has had double-digit kill totals in every match, including 27 against Arlington on April 5.
Ivanov, for opposing defenses, is a tough-to-handle outlier.
“Most good teams put their strongest attackers on the left side,” Dimov said. “Righthanded hitters on the left side [is] most common. And I think it’s just something they haven’t seen often, is to have a big lefthanded hitter on the right side as a main force of the attacking.
“They’re not used to practicing against it because they don’t see it in practice, so it’s hard to defend. It’s not functionally that different.”
Another advantage Ivanov has is his coach. Dimov has run the boys’ program for the SMASH volleyball club in Waltham since 2012 and coaches the boys’ 18s team on which Ivanov plays. His Boston Latin teammates Andy Wang and Miroslaw Wierzbicki , the Wolfpack’s second hitter, also play on that team. Learning from Dimov and with his teammates allowed Ivanov to refine his approach as a hitter, so he does more than just leaping as high as he can and attacking as hard as he can.
“Most of the games, I’m regarded as a primary hitter, so they definitely tune in on me,” Ivanov said. “Last year I hit pretty hard, but this year I think I’ve become a smarter hitter. I’ve learned how to hit on weird sets, I’ve learned how to hit around the block, and just limit my errors.
“I definitely have an advantage over some of the smaller blockers, but that doesn’t mean I can go and swing away,” Ivanov said. “I identify usually their weakest passer, the seams, or somehow even if I don’t get a kill, I’ll get them out of system so we can get offensive possession.”
Ivanov’s increasing volleyball IQ, along with his sheer athletic ability, put him on Harvard’s radar. He aspires to play at the Division 1 level, so he’ll focus on refining the weaknesses of his game the next two seasons. There were instances in Wednesday’s match where Ivanov’s attacks went out of bounds, didn’t hit their spots, or blocks were missed on defense, but the extra attention he pays to his mistakes is what will help him translate his standout abilities to the next level of play.
After the match, he sat on the folded-up bleachers with his parents reviewing match film on a tablet.
“Timing and decision making are two big areas of improvement,” Dimov said. “Certainly physically, he’s able to succeed a lot, and sometimes that comes at the expense of good mechanics as he’s able to be higher than others. The goal would be that when he faces people that can touch up as high as he can, which he will down the road, hopefully, to have some strategies to defeat them too.”
It’s not a coincidence that in Ivanov’s last two seasons, the Wolfpack have made the postseason after not qualifying from 2007-2016. They, like Ivanov, have made tremendous strides as a program, and like Ivanov, have become an opponent teams prepare for with a little extra effort.
“Offense and defense, he just puts such a big presence on the court,” Wang said.
Literally and figuratively.
Acton-Boxborough setter Roland Jiang is having a breakout year. He tallied 106 assists in just three matches this week . . . Top-ranked Greater New Bedford (7-0) still hasn’t lost a set, the only team in the Top 20 with that designation . . . Keep an eye on No. 20 Central Catholic in the Merrimack Valley Conference. The Raiders (3-1) opened the season on April 3 with a 3-2 win over St. John’s-Shrewsbury, arguably the top Central Mass. team, and have since defeated Methuen and Andover (with a 3-1 loss to No. 7 Lawrence mixed in). Alex Nadeau has 93 digs and Kevin Stevenson has 43 kills . . . Senior setter Brenden Joyce paced Randolph’s 4-0 start with 39 kills and 40 assists. The Blue Devils also haven’t lost a set.
Matches to watch
No. 7 Lawrence at No. 8 Needham, Wednesday, 11 a.m.: The Rockets bounced back from their Monday loss to Newton North with a win two days later over Brookline, but an always-sound Lawrence team will be tough.
Brockton at No. 19 BC High, Thursday, 12:15 p.m.: A good early-season matchup between two perennial South playoff teams.
Westford at No. 18 Chelmsford, Thursday, 1 p.m.: The Grey Ghosts are 1-5, but all of their losses have come against teams in the Top 15. Don’t be surprised if they play a competitive match with the defending North champions.