Boys volleyball continues to take off in second season
One year ago, several schools in the state of Minnesota started a movement to have boys volleyball sanctioned as a sport in the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL). As with many sports in their infancy, last year served as a test run for the 23 schools that took part in it and as the season went along, the game started to grow within the teams that were taking the court last spring.
Today, the number of schools has doubled to 52 statewide, which includes Kasson-Mantorville. Once the outlier as the only outstate school with a boys volleyball team, K-M now has its own conference with fellow Southeastern Minnesota teams Austin, Rochester Mayo and Rochester Area along with five other schools from Northern Minnesota who have helped spread the game’s popularity in hopes of making it a sanctioned sport.
“We are at a much higher level now than we were a year ago,” K-M head coach Adam VanOort said of the growth throughout the state. “The level of volleyball is way higher and there’s probably like 15 teams this year that could have beaten any of the teams that played last year. It has grown incredibly fast and I’m expecting that to continue to happen.”
That growth has carried over at K-M where it has had four players return from the team’s inaugural season. With the benefit of knowing how to play the game, K-M dominated its new conference foes and punched their ticket to the first ever boys volleyball state tournament in Shakopee on Saturday.
“Instead of us starting from ground zero where none of the boys had played in a six-on-six format before, we had four guys who knew how that stuff worked,” VanOort said of this year’s success. “The returning guys were helping the people next to them and that learning process was shortened significantly not just here, but throughout the state.”
That familiarity and the improvement that has come with it has delivered a more competitive product on the court and figures to give K-M and the other seven teams that qualified for the first state tournament a tough field to navigate through on Saturday afternoon. The opportunity to play with some of the other top teams in the state and help set a landmark for the sport is something that is not lost on VanOort and his team.
“Our names will be on [this tournament] and it’s something we can look back at when, hopefully in five or 10 years from now, it’s a MSHSL sport,” he said. “We’ll know that we helped start this thing and hopefully we’ll be high on the list where we finish.”
As for getting boys volleyball sanctioned, he believes it’s something that could happen in the near future. This year, there are more boys volleyball players than there were lacrosse players when the MSHSL sanctioned it a couple years ago — a process that concluded after seven years of debate.
With nearly double the growth in its second season, VanOort believes that the decision to sanction boys volleyball could come down in the next couple years with possibly over 100 schools being involved.
“I think it’s looking in really good shape within the next two years to get to that step,” he said. “I think if it gets there, it will pass if it continues to grow like it has now. I think they just don’t want to jump into it too early, but I think that it definitely will get there as a sanctioned sport.”
The K-M boys’ volleyball team will play in the first ever Minnesota Boys’ High School Volleyball Tournament this weekend on Saturday and Sunday afternoon at Shakopee High School.