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When Vania Star's daughters played volleyball for Columbus Christian in the mid-2000s, she noticed a flux of home-schooled girls involved in the sport.
Drawing from those players, Star began the Columbus Inferno home-school volleyball program in 2007. She coached the team, which became the Columbus Crush, for six years before turning things over to Andy McCracken this season.
McCracken is acting principal of Paideia Christian Co-Op, whose 80 students meet Tuesdays at Reformed Presbyterian Church, where he is pastor.
Teachers work with the students on Tuesdays, then turn them over to their parents for the rest of the week.
About a third of the volleyball players, including senior Allie Shoop, are members of Paideia. Shoop’s two older sisters went to Columbus North.
“I also had the chance to go there, and it’s not like I didn’t want to,” Shoop said. “It’s just, I love my family, and I already had so many friends in this home-school community that I couldn’t picture being away from them.”
The Crush are off to a flying start this season. They began 4-0 with wins over home-schooled teams from Terre Haute, Lafayette and two home-schooled teams from Indianapolis before falling to Columbus Christian in five games Thursday night.
“I would say we’ve been improving more and more,” McCracken s aid. “This year is the first year that I’ve seen them spike like they should, play defense like they should. They’re starting to cover (the court).
“I’m thrilled that they’ve been starting to play as a team. They’re getting the movement,” he said. “They’re learning positioning. I want them to keep playing aggressively, even though we may start to face some opposition that’s playing well, like we did (Thursday) night.”
The Crush already have won nearly as many games as they did last year, when they finished under .500.
“Last season, nothing clicked well together,” Shoop said. “I feel like we’re actually a team now, and now we’ve all bonded. It’s really hard to have new people come in, but we all click, and we’re actually feeling like a team.”
“We are 100 times better than we were at the end of last year,” senior setter Autumn Rocker said. “We’re working on our passing and our spiking, and our setting is definitely a lot better. This is the best team that I’ve ever played on. It’s really cool to have our best team that we’ve had since I’ve been on the team (in) my senior year.”
McCracken, who played at Geneva College in Pennsylvania and in the U.S. Volleyball Association with a team out of Bloomington, calls Rocker his best all-around player.
“She’s a great setter,” McCracken said. “She also spikes well and serves really well. She’s an all-around player.”
“Dani McFall and Peanut Dodgen have become my spikers. They’re starting to come along. I have great passers, as well. Megan Tuttle is passing really well. Allie Shoop is doing great, as well.”
The Crush, who play their home games at the First Christian Church Youth Center, have a 13-game schedule, plus a tournament at the end of the season. Autumn Rocker’s mother, Lisa Rocker, arranges the matches.
Vania Star’s son, John, has been helping the Crush with training. The team is off to its best start since it went 16-3 and won the Bronze Division in the 2008 nationals.
“I don’t go as much by the success as by the opportunity to give these girls a chance to play competitively and not just recreationally,” Vania Star said.
Autumn Rocker, who moved from upstate New York, said volleyball is a good way to make friends and get exercise.
“Volleyball is my favorite sport,” Rocker said. “I haven’t lived in Columbus always, so it’s very nice to be able to come to a place where there are opportunities to be able to play sports.”
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