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Millis Volleyball Teams Focuses On The Right Stuff Guinan’s Coaching Perspective a Big Plus

Coach Jay Guinan and the 2022 Millis boys volleyball team that finished the regular season with an 8-8 record, then lost to Westfield in the second round of the state tourney.

Staff Sports Writer

Jay Guinan is a very knowledgeable and successful volleyball coach but it’s his method and mindset that set him apart from the vast majority of coaches who focus on winning records, tournament berths and championships. 
The 60-year-old Guinan, who’s been the Millis boys volleyball coach for 15 years, has a 175-116 career record and has directed his teams to 11 post-season playoff appearances. That kind of success is linked to the goals he sets at the start of each season, his philosophy that focuses on building citizenship, and the life lessons he believes can be learned in athletics. 
This year’s Mohawks, who finished their regular season with an 8-8 record, qualified for the Division 2 tourney and split a pair of games, beating Burlington, 3-2, and losing to Westfield, 3-0.
“I didn’t stress qualifying for the tourney or winning a certain amount of matches when we discussed our objectives for the season,’’ said Guinan, who played volleyball at the national level after college. “Our goals were to improve match by match, build stamina and physical strength, and to develop team chemistry and camaraderie. If those three things occur, then a tourney appearance will be the by-product.’’
The Mohawks rallied against Burlington by dominating the fifth game. Against three-time state champion Westfield, Guinan said, “We got beat by a better team. We kept up with them on offense but we struggled with our serving. It was a satisfying season and we achieved as much as we could.’’ 
Millis ended the regular season at No. 19 in the power rankings.
Guinan’s athletic philosophy doesn’t mirror winning or reaching one’s potential. Instead, he talks about citizenship.
“My philosophy is to develop better citizens,’’ he emphasized. “That means monitoring my players’ work ethic and their attitudes. It also means that academics come first and that community service is important. I coach like a dad. I give the boys wiggle room as long as they don’t cross the line.’’
Another key to Guinan’s successful style is emphasizing life lessons, especially on the court.
“I want my players to focus only on what they can do on their own,’’ he said. “I’m a competitive person so I am about winning and teaching players how to win. But I also emphasize learning how to accept defeat without becoming defeated. Other life lessons I hope they learn are to be team players, to be nice when in doubt, and to let their game speak for itself.’’
The 2022 edition of Millis’ boys squad, which had seven seniors, seven juniors, and one freshman, relied on a style that was all about strong net play, balance, consistency and above average depth.
“We had blue-collar kids at all positions,’’ Guinan said. “Our strengths were mental toughness, height, team chemistry, athleticism, a volleyball IQ that improved, and a strong blocking ability.’’
The Mohawks’ captains are a good starting point when team-first players are mentioned. The co-captains were seniors Alex Joseph (middle hitter) and Jess Kahn (setter). 
“Alex is an explosive, all-around player who led in kills [112] and had 16 blocks,’’ Guinan noted. “At six feet, he jumps high and he reads the game well. An intense leader, he was vocal. Jess hustles and has a lot of drive. He’s a team-first player and a spectacular leader. Both captains recruited players and because of them we had 27 boys at the jayvee and varsity levels.’’
Senior Bretton Kohler played middle hitter and led the team in blocks (27). “Bretton is 6-4, has size and power, reads the game well and plays solid defense,’’ Guinan said. “He’s got the highest volleyball IQ on the team.’’
Senior Emmett Clark, a Tri Valley League all-star as a junior, started at outside hitter. 
“Emmett plays with a disability,’’ Guinan said. “He has no left hand but he’s got terrific spirit. A productive player, he’s very versatile. He can pass, attack and block. A team-first guy, he comes from good stock. His brother and sister both played for Millis.’’
Juniors Andrew Maher (setter) and Luke Bennett (outside hitter) proved to be key cogs for the Mohawks.
“Andrew is very calm and the team thrives when he’s on the court,’’ Guinan said. “At six feet, he serves and blocks effectively. He’s a setter who attacks the ball, getting 31 kills in the 16 regular-season games. His volleyball IQ improved and he was able to identify where a good set was. Luke was the surprise of the season. As a first-year player, he started and got strong at the net and passed well. He was second in kills and third in aces. His reach enabled him to block well.’’
Junior Nicholas Almieda and senior Matt Kraus displayed versatility, playing middle and right-side hitter.
“Nicholas was the starting quarterback in football,’’ Guinan noted. “He often started because of his vertical leap, power, athleticism and defensive ability. He was a go-to-guy wherever he was needed. Matt can play any front-row position. He’s strong at the net, blocks well, is athletic and puts his focus on the team.’’
Freshman Henry Kiggen played libero after starting out as a setter. A first-year player, Guinan likes his potential. “Henry has a lot of natural technique,’’ he offered. “He sets well and is a very strong passer.’’
Guinan didn’t play volleyball in high school or college but after graduating from Boston University, he played for USA Volleyball at the New England level. He later competed in the adult age group at the national level. In high school, at Bishop Hendricken in Warwick, RI, he competed in the shot put in track and field. Swimming and diving, however, were where he excelled. He won a state title in diving, was a captain in swimming and an all-state selection.
The girls’ jayvee volleyball coach at Millis before taking the reins of the boys’ program, Guinan is the owner of Technology Representatives Inc. of Attleboro, a security and surveillance firm at the homeland security level.
Surveillance no doubt is a factor when Guinan coaches. He knows how to identify an opponent’s weaknesses and he attacks those limitations. He also emphasizes all the right things that help his players learn valuable life lessons that lead to their becoming good citizens.
Jay Guinan and the Millis boys’ volleyball team are a dynamic partnership. They strive to focus on the right stuff.