Local Youth & young adult

Power play: Boys volleyball growing in popularity

From left, Michael Bevitt, freshman from Holy Trinity in Lenexa, Lincoln McIntire, senior from Holy Trinity in Paola, and Zach Jaworski, senior from Curé of Ars in Leawood, work on their skills as part of the St. James Academy boys volleyball team. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

by Dean Backes
Special to The Leaven

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When the Kansas City High School Boys Volleyball League was formed six years ago, the goal was to create awareness for the game and to eventually clear the way for boys on both sides of the state line to play varsity volleyball as a sanctioned sport.

Following five club seasons in Kansas City and decades of club contests in St. Louis, Missouri took the ultimate step earlier this week when boys volleyball teams from 75 schools tipped off the spring season under the guidance of the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA).

During its inaugural season, the Show Me State joins nearly two dozen states that either sponsor boys volleyball already, or soon will, while competing in one classification.

Thanks to the leadership of Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas parishioners Erin Rodriguez, Nancy Dorsey, Mark Scheinkoenig and Susan Thrasher, boys volleyball in the Sunflower State may soon follow the example of its neighbor to the east.

Sitting on the board of directors of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), Dorsey, who coaches both boys and girls volleyball at St. James Academy in Lenexa, is the high school representative for really the entire nation.

“I’m really blessed to be a part of [AVCA] and to be in those rooms where we talk about things like the birth of boys volleyball and what’s going on in the promotion of the girls game as it continues to grow in popularity,” said Dorsey, a Sacred Heart of Jesus, Shawnee, parishioner. “That has been a huge part of it for me, too. I see what other states are doing.

“I just love the game of volleyball and want to promote it and get it to grow however I can. Boys volleyball is the number one growing sport for boys in this country. Volleyball, in general, is on fire.”

Derek Hellebusch, a sophomore from Church of the Ascension in Overland Park, skies high for a spike off the set from Nathan Simms, a freshman from Prince of Peace, Olathe. Both play for Lenexa’s St. James Academy team. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

League games are scheduled as triangulars, once or twice a week, beginning at the end of March and running through the beginning of May. Tri-matches are the best two out of three sets while duals in the boys league are slated as the best three out of five.

Once the season reaches its midpoint, the league will hold a tournament for those who wish to participate. Then, as regular season play concludes, teams are invited to compete in postseason play as well.

Following league play, teams will be seeded into pools on the day of the postseason tournament. The first- and second-place teams in each pool go to the gold bracket while the third- and fourth-place clubs play their way into the silver bracket.

Schools from Kansas City, Kansas, Johnson County, Topeka, Louisburg, Manhattan and Wichita have signed up for a spring of swatting, stuffing and rifling volleyballs at opponents on the other side of the net. Of the 29 schools that have signed up, 24 varsity teams, 11 junior varsity squads and five middle school teams have been created.

Dorsey said that as a teacher and a coach at St. James Academy, it is encouraged of them to show who they are as people and what they believe in.

“It just deepens those relationships,” Dorsey said. “I was told once that kids don’t care what you know until they know that you care. I really believe that.

“I think when everything we do is rooted in being a good Catholic, being a Christian and being a good person and genuinely wanting what’s best for us as individuals, it helps develop a level of trust that can lead to greater things far beyond winning or losing. It’s been pretty amazing to see these young men and women become the best version of themselves.”

The boys volleyball players huddle up for a prayer at the St. James Academy, Lenexa, gym. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Rodriguez, whose resume includes 27 years of coaching CYO, high school and club volleyball on the girls side, is going into her sixth season of coaching the Bishop Miege, Roeland Park, boys with her husband John. Rodriguez, a parishioner at Sacred Heart, recently compared girls volleyball to the boys game.

“It’s crazy how big of a difference there is,” Rodriguez said. “The games are growing closer and closer. The boys game is a lot of power. Power serves. Power hits. And the girls game is a lot of strategy and defense.

“Since the boys don’t usually have the skill set to dig those fast balls, the girls volleys will go a lot longer, usually. The boys game is power hit, wow! Power hit, wow! Power hit, wow!”

Scheinkoenig, a member of Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe, grew up in Wisconsin, where boys volleyball has been sanctioned for decades. However, the St. Thomas Aquinas, Overland Park,  boys volleyball coach wasn’t able to dig his sport of choice until after graduating from St. Pius XI High School in Madison, Wisconsin.

He then got a taste of the college sports experience by playing club volleyball at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater after discovering the game on the beaches of the Great Lakes. Scheinkoenig said he fell in love with the explosiveness of mens volleyball.

“If you watch the NBA, it’s high-flying action. It’s throwing down dunks. It’s guys making super-athletic plays. Mens volleyball is very similar,” Scheinkoenig said. “Guys are trying to hit the ball hard and going for broke.

“When you get above the net, you’re trying to hit the ball as hard as you can and you’re trying to bounce it off of the court. You’re trying to bounce it off of the sand and ooh and ahh the crowd a little.”

To view more photos of the volleyball league, follow us on Facebook.

About the author

The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

Leave a Comment