Boys volleyball teams off and running, hoping for IHSAA sanctioning next year

Columbus East’s Alex Duncan, from left, tries to hit the ball past Columbus North’s Isaac Riddle and Isaac Proffitt during a boys volleyball game at Columbus East High School in Columbus, Ind., Tuesday, May 9, 2023.

The Republic file photo

Boys volleyball now is in its second year as an Emerging Sport as classified by the IHSAA, and if things go according to plan, those in the volleyball community are hoping it can become a fully-sanctioned IHSAA sport next spring.

Columbus East and Columbus North have been fielding club teams for several years. Both teams opened their 2024 seasons within the past couple of weeks.

“From the talks that I’ve heard, I’m hoping that next year, it will go IHSAA-official with all the schools that are adding programs,” first-year East coach Kailey Smith said.

Columbus East boys volleyball coach Kailey Smith talks to her team March 28 against Jeffersonville at East High School.

Submitted photo

Smith, a former East volleyball and basketball player, has coached at Hope Area Volleyball Club (HAVOC) for two years. She is in her first year coaching boys at the club, and a few of them are on her team at East.

“Alex Duncan and Jake Gilbert approached me this winter and asked me if I’d be interested in coaching this year,” Smith said. “I just enjoyed it a lot, so I decided to do it, and I’m extremely happy that I did.”

Duncan, a junior outside hitter, and Gilbert, a senior setter, are among the Olympians’ top players. Other starters are junior libero Tyler Ernst, junior outside hitter Ian School, junior middle hitter Grayson Watters, senior middle hitter Levi Johnston and junior right side hitter Will Gausman. Senior right side hitter Oliver Carr and freshman defensive specialist Trevor Ernst are the top subs.

East opened its season with a five-set loss at Madison before rebounding for a five-set win against Jeffersonville. The Olympians swept Martinsville in three sets on Wednesday before falling at New Albany in five sets on Thursday.

“I’m actually really happy,” Smith said. “We only had six practices under our belt before our first game. Then, we had another pracitce in the middle of our Madison match and our Jeffersonville match. We spent a lot of time working on defense, and I think it really paid off come that Jeffersonville game.”

North began its season on Wednesday at Silver Creek. The Bull Dogs beat Silver Creek in two sets and lost to New Albany in two close sets.

Senior outside hitter Isaac Riddle and senior setter Aidan Whitley are returning starters for North. They are joined in the rotation by senior libero Ethan Deak, sophomore defensive specialist Jonah Sipes, sophomore middle hitter Leo Iorio, junior middle hitter JJ Salcedo, senior outside hitter Anyu Gong and senior right side hitter Vignesh Preamkumar.

“We’re definitely a young team, but the core group that we have is pretty solid,” fifth-year North coach Sarah Boldrey said. “So I think we’re going to be able to compete pretty well this year.”

Both the Bull Dogs and Olympians will conclude their seasons in a tournament May 18 at Indy Genesis for teams that are not playing in the Indiana High School Boys Volleyball Coaches Association state tournament.

“We’re really excited about it this year because it’s kind of our own little state tournament,” Boldrey said.

East would have had a chance to play in the IHSBVCA tournament, but it would have to play without Johnston, who is a student at Columbus Christian, and Gausman, a student at Trinity Lutheran.

“They stuck with us all season long, so I would hate for those guys to put in all that work and not be a part of us,” Smith said. “It will allow Will to get a few more reps under his belt and will allow Levi to have a good end to the season.”

While the North team has no home games and is practicing at HAVOC, East has been able to use its gym for practices and home games. The Olympians have six more home games, beginning Wednesday against Silver Creek and concluding with the regular-season finale May 10 against the Bull Dogs.

“I want to thank the East administration, especially the athletic department,” said East assistant coach Josh Duncan, who was the Olympians’ head coach last season. “Even though we are a club and not a school program, they have let us use the gym for practices and games. I can’t thank them enough.”