Boys Volleyball: Andrew’s Sanil Thomas makes seamless transition from setter to big-time hitter
By Logan Malloy For Sun-Times Media April 21, 2014 9:14PM
Sanil Thomas for Andrew Volleyball for Spring Photo Day at Andrew High School, Sunday, March 23rd, 2014 in Tinley Park | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media
Sanil Thomas isn’t making it easy for opposing coaches to game-plan against Andrew.
After earning an All-Area nod last season as a sophomore setter, Thomas is making waves as a high-octane outside hitter, becoming a containment hassle for rival coaches who are mentioning him as one of the top players in the Southland.
“It’s flattering to think that coaches from other schools recognize your talent,” said Thomas, who sets for his club team, Ultimate Gold. “Playing on the outside is a different dynamic. Other schools have to prepare for me hitting and setting. I’m a hard match-up, I guess.”
With junior setter Sean Yerkes in the fold, Andrew coach Courtney Stoub moved the 5-foot-10 Thomas to the outside in a hybrid role. It’s been a boon for the Thunderbolts’ attack.
Thomas has 120 kills, 107 assists, 69 digs and 25 aces through 14 matches. This month, he set the single-match kill record at the Wheaton Warrenville South Tiger Classic with 22 in a victory over Oak Park-River Forest. He needed just two sets to do so.
“He’s a powerhouse,” Stoub said. “He brings a lot of speed on the outside with his arm and he has a lot of ball control. Sometimes you watch him and you’re like, ‘How did he do that?’ ”
As a three-year varsity member, Thomas said this is the deepest and most offensive-minded team he’s been with.
“I don’t think it’s just because of me,” he said. “We have Nick (VanderZanden). He’s 6-9 in the middle. He’s a big offensive threat. He jumps pretty decent, and when he goes up there’s nothing opposing teams can do.”
When VanderZanden, a Lewis recruit, falls into the rotation alongside Thomas, that’s when Andrew’s attack is at its most unpredictable. Thomas can dish to his big man in the middle or take sets from Yerkes in a 6-2 rotation.
“Nick is always up in the air, so he’s either pulling the block or getting the kill, which leaves our hitters one-on-one on the outside,” Stoub said. “When Nick gets into a rhythm, we can get after it a little more.”
Thomas knows all about getting after it. He’s doing so with enthusiasm on the court and in the classroom. He said his parents — who moved to the U.S. from India in the 1980s — place an emphasis on academics, which is why he’s taking AP Literature, AP U.S. History and all honors classes.
“Gotta earn those college credits,” Thomas said. “My sister is a pharmacist. My brother is playing volleyball at Milwaukee School of Engineering. The focus is on school more than sports.”