By Dave Dyer
---- — Jon Buatti’s impact on the Salem volleyball program continues.
A year after graduating and helping Salem go undefeated while winning its eighth straight state title, Buatti can take some credit for this year’s successful campaign.
Just ask sophomore Pat Frydryck, who is one of the biggest surprises of the season for the high-flying unbeaten Blue Devils.
“He’s the guy who got me into volleyball, persuaded me to come out and he taught me a lot about the game,” said Frydryck, a 5-foot-11 outside hitter. “He pushed me ... he had so much energy and passion for the game,”
Salem coach John Roemer who knew that, with only three veterans back, he’d need some of his youngsters to step up quickly, certainly must appreciate Buatti’s contribution.
“He (Fryrdryck) has been a big surprise,” said Roemer. “Based on what I knew about him, I thought he’d be a guy who would need a year to develop, but he’s been a big part of our success.”
Roemer’s caution is understandable because Frydryck is only in his second year of volleyball and — because of limited passing skills — he didn’t even start all the time on the JV squad as a freshman.
“My passing was pretty bad,” admits Frydryck. “But I worked on it this winter and I think I’ve gotten a lot better.”
Still, Frydryck hardly thought he’d be starting for the perennial powerhouse Blue Devils.
“I was just hoping to make varsity and maybe play a little bit,” said Frydryck. “When the coach called my name as a starter before the first game, I was ecstatic. I love playing on this team.”
Frydryck’s meteoric rise hasn’t been without some bumps along the way, however. Roemer remembers when he started an early season showdown against Pinkerton.
“I’m not so sure I’ve ever seen someone so nervous,” said Roemer. “He was shaking so much the first game it was almost funny.”
Frydryck remembers that well.
“I was never so nervous in my life,” he said. “I was shaking, I was clammy and I was sweating, It took me at least a game to calm down.”
Since then, said Roemer, Frydryck — who has an ever improving vertical leap — has just gotten better and better and become an integral part of the Blue Devils as a complement to standout returnees Eric Denning, Andrw Ruffen and Steve Nugent.
“At this point, because we really have such a young team, we’re better than expected,” said Roemer. “We’ve developed and come together.
“A lot of it is that we’ve really gotten a lot better defensively and Pat has played extremely well on defense. I’m really happy with him and my other young players.”
In fact, Salem has gotten to the point that Frydryck, believes that it can more than hold its own as it vies for its ninth straight state title.
“I don’t think we have as much talent as last year but we’re getting better and we’ll hold our own,” he said. “I think we have some good natural talent that is starting to show.”
For which, at least in Frydryck’s case, Buatti can take at least some of the credit.