Fago leads influential senior class

Andrew Little | The Chronicle

Senior Anthony Fago jumps for a serve in a match against Lakota East.

As the Mason Boys Volleyball team prepares for its next chapter as an Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) sanctioned sport next season, it is preparing to say goodbye to an impactful senior class.

Starting in the 2022-23 school year, boys volleyball along with girls wrestling will be officially recognized as a state sanctioned sport, meaning that they will be eligible to compete for OHSAA championship titles.

The 2022 senior class is composed of Anthony Fago, Porter Lorenz, Tyler Smith, Will Burke, Noah Hershberger, and Ruben Gonzalez. Fago, Lorenz, Smith, and Burke have been with the program since they were freshmen while Hershberger and Gonzalez are in their second and first seasons with the team. After the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group has helped rebuild the program as it heads into its next era.

Fago has been counted on as a key leader for the team in his fourth season with the program. He placed an emphasis on adding “fresh talent” to the team as well as a focus on gauging more interest for the program. There are five varsity players in their first year with the sport, including dual-sport athletes Ben Golan, a varsity basketball player, and Nick Sailers, a varsity football player.

Fago said that he has found satisfaction in his role as a team leader through mentoring the younger players and new additions.

“I feel like I’ve tried to make everyone else better around me, along with recruiting other people,” Fago said. “We got a few guys from basketball this year that have been great additions and I’m just trying to teach them the game of volleyball.”

(As of 5/9) Fago leads the Greater Miami Conference (GMC) in kills and aces, and is the favorite for conference player of the year. Lorenz leads the conference in assists and Burke is third in blocks. Fago has already surpassed his junior season total for kills, when he finished fourth in the GMC.

Head coach Paul Melnick said that Fago has had one of the best careers in his time coaching, and his consistent presence has helped the Comets compete with top competition in the area.

“He’s one of the most talented volleyball players in all of southwest Ohio,” Melnick said. “I’m lucky to have a player like that. He makes us better and keeps us in games, and the big thing is he’s consistent.”

(As of 5/9) The Comets are in second place behind Sycamore, their third runner-up finish in as many seasons. They started their season 2-2 after a close loss to Lakota West, but recovered with six straight wins including defeating Dayton Carroll in five sets, who at the time was ranked second overall in the state. They then went on a three-game losing skid including a loss to Sycamore, but recovered with six consecutive wins.

Melnick said the team relied on the seniors to provide stability while the underclassmen continue to learn the sport, and that their leadership has allowed the team to stay towards the top of the conference.

“The stronger [the seniors] are the stronger we are,” Melnick said. “It’s been a growing thing throughout the season. We keep getting better and better every week and it shows in our play. We get more consistent.”

Fago was expected to play varsity minutes in his sophomore season, but because of its cancellation he and his classmates were immediately thrust into leadership roles as juniors while simultaneously making a varsity jump. This experience caused him to place an emphasis on preparing the next group of seniors to be team leaders.

After finishing as one of the top two teams in the GMC each of his three seasons, Fago said that he is proud of he and his teammate’s efforts to pass on their legacy.

“I feel like we’ve been like great leaders and mentors to the junior class,” Fago said. “That’s most of our varsity team right now. But I feel like we’ve just been leading them and kind of teaching them how to play volleyball the right way.”

Mens’ volleyball has been gaining popularity nationwide over the past decade, with players like Fago playing year-round starting at a young age. Melnick believes that OHSAA sanctioning will continue that growth, and hopes that the team can add a freshman team in the near future to continue its development. Melnick said he believes that this senior class’s approach to the game, and commitment on and off the court to the team will trickle down into subsequent teams.

“The big thing is just [the seniors’] love for the game,” Melnick said. “They’re kind of the first crop that played a lot of volleyball all year round and I think that’s helping us. Like every sport volleyball is becoming an all year round sport. Our younger kids are seeing the results of the success that they’re having, from where they started to where they are with seniors and hopefully that’ll continue.”

Photo by Izzy Herlinger