After multiple pilot seasons, boys volleyball is finally a sport that is sanctioned by the Colorado High School Activities Association this season.
In the May 10 CHSAANow.com boys volleyball rankings, Cherry Creek, Douglas County and Valor Christian were the state’s top three teams. Legend was ranked fifth.
“Overall, it has been a treat just to have the boys in the gym and see a new excitement for the game,” said Douglas County head coach Jason Fitzgerald. “I think there was probably a lot of skepticism early. What’s this going to look like? But I’ve been impressed by the level of play from the teams I’ve seen.”
Cherry Creek has a co-op team with several players from Overland.
Prior to the start of the season, Creek coach Mike Degitis sent invitations to athletes from Overland to try out for the team since the expectations around the popularity of the sport was not high.
Around 10 boys from Overland joined the program, and Creek was able to add development teams.
“The sport is growing fast,” said Degitis. “I’m looking forward to an exciting season.”
Legend’s team is co-opted with Chaparral and Ponderosa and had 40 athletes try out and nobody was cut.
“We created a developmental team so we could continue to build the program,” said boys coach Travis Underwood who was also helping prepare the girls team for the state tournament which was May 12-13. “Varsity has a great mix of all grade levels while JV is mostly younger players. It’ll take a couple of seasons, but it won’t be long before you’ll see a third level being rostered.”
Much of the hesitation about boys volleyball stemmed around the question whether the sport could lure boys to participate.
“We did well with our numbers this year,” said Fitzgerald whose team draws players from Douglas County, Castle View and Lutheran high schools. “I know some of the teams around the league had enough participation to host three teams. It will catch on. It’s a great sport that attracts a lot of athletes that might been the second, third or the last guy on the bench in another sport,” he said.
“So they really want to play. They’re good athletes. They’re just looking for a new home. A lot of times you find guys that might have been hurt in their dominate sport and they’re looking for a fast, energetic sport where they’re not going to get a bone broken as easily,” he added.
Fitzgerald, like Underwood, works with both the boys and girls teams.
The difference between girls and boys volleyball can be summed up by saying the girls play a more ball control style while the boys rely more on power.
“The mechanics of the sport are similar if not identical,” explained Fitzgerald. “The psychologies of the athletes sometimes vary and definitely the team psychologies will vary. And the experience level, girls are exposed to the sport between 11 and 14. Most boys are introduced to the sport around 14 to 16.”
Douglas County’s Connor Shumate played the past two years on the Huskies’ pilot team and is anxious to compete this spring with a chance to win a CHSAA state title. Shumate is a seniors at Castle View.
“I had a massive desire to get back onto the court with this team,” he said. “Last year we came into the season with state championship expectations fueled by the semifinal loss the year before. When the season was canceled, we were devastated.
“That fire burns hotter than ever and we have the team to do it. As I talk with my friends from various teams around the state, we are one of the favorites for the championship. We have to be disciplined in who we hang out with and wearing our masks to avoid COVID related shut downs. There have already been two teams that have had to reschedule games due to COVID. There is a very real chance we can come out of this season as the first ever CHSAA boys volleyball state champions.”
Jayden Pascua of Douglas County is a senior at Lutheran and has played volleyball for for five years.
“Volleyball runs in my family,” he said. “I started playing competitively in eighth grade because a friend encouraged me to try out for a local club team. I fell in love with the game and have been playing ever since.
“This season is going better than expected. I am thankful we are able to play this inaugural sanctioned year of high school boys volleyball.”