Bridging Eras: East sweeps North in final battle as club teams

Columbus East’s Jake Gilbert sends the ball back across the net during Friday’s match against Columbus North in the Orange Pit at Columbus East High School.

Tommy Walker | For The Republic

Friday night’s Columbus North at Columbus East boys volleyball game marked the end of one era and served as a springboard to another.

The Bull Dogs played their final game as a club team, and the Olympians played their final home contest as a club team. Next year, boys volleyball will be an official IHSAA sport.

“We’re super excited,” East junior Alex Duncan said. “We don’t get to play in the state tournament this year, which we’re sad about. But we’re glad that we’ve had a great season for the seniors and all they do for us.”

Those seniors from both schools were honored before Friday’s senior night game in The Orange Pit. The Olympians won the match 25-11, 25-12, 25-16.

“I’m extremely happy,” East coach Kailey Smith said. “I knew all week long that we were building up, anticipating that it was probably going to be a tough match, but the boys put in extra work this week. We had four really good practices, and then their momentum and energy kind of carried into the game today and I think it paid off.”

The game marked the first in the decade that the Olympians have fielded a boys volleyball team that they have beaten North.

“It was definitely a really fun opportunity,” East senior setter Jake Gilbert said. “I’ve been a four-year team member here, and this is my first time beating North, so it’s a really special night being able to celebrate. This is a big win for us.”

Duncan pounded five kills, Gilbert recorded 21 assists, Alex Wenzler had three blocks and Ian Scholl served two aces to lead the Olympians. Scholl and Oliver Carr each added four kills.

East (7-4) will finish its season May 18 in the Midwest Classic in Lafayette.

“Having a winning season so far has been great because that’s something that hasn’t really been done in club volleyball here at East,” Gilbert said. “Seeing all the hard work we put in during practices, and everything coach has taught us, being able to see that go into action is really cool.”

The Bull Dogs finish their season 2-4.

“It was a little bit of a struggle at first, but I think we finally brought it together toward the end and had lots of fun,” junior Jonah Sipes said.

“It was a building year for sure,” North coach Sarah Boldrey added. “It was tough to get games, but we made the most of it, and these boys had a great time. They grew this year. We’re losing a lot (to graduation), though.”

While the Bull Dogs lose a senior class led by setter Aidan Whitley, who is headed to DePauw to play soccer, Sipes will lead a group of returners into the IHSAA-sanctioned Era.

“I think it’s great,” Sipes said. “They’ve needed to do this for awhile, and now, we can get the funding that we need.”

“We’re super excited, hoping that will put a lot less stress on the kids’ parents and get more engagement,” Boldrey said. “It will be nice to be able to get into a gym. The kids won’t have to pay to play the sport. We’ll get buses, stuff like that.”

Boldrey and Smith are former players for girls volleyball teams at North and East. Now, they’re happy to see their boys teams enjoy the same level of sanctioning.

“The boys are extremely pumped up about it,” Smith said. “That’s all I hear about. They have been working hard on it the last few years, and then to have that news come out, their hard work has finally paid off.”