Great growth: National boys high school volleyball preview, part 1

High school boys volleyball, one of the fastest growing sports in America, is either underway or begins play soon around the nation. This is our two-part look at the 28 states playing boys volleyball around the USA, and we know there are more to come.

The First Point Volleyball Foundation is on a mission to get all 50 states to sanction boys high school volleyball by the Olympics in 2028. 

“More boys are getting a chance to play high school volleyball largely due to the commitment of volunteers around the country,” said Wade Garard, the CEO and founder of First Point. “What we are finding from the work being done by members of First Point’s high school growth committee is that when a passionate group of volunteers relentlessly advocate for official status it can happen.  

“No one thought we would be able to get 10 states to vote yes for sanctioning in a seven-year period.”

But that has happened, of course. Since First Point began its efforts,the following states have become sanctioned or are now emerging status:

Colorado
Delaware
Indiana
Kentucky
Minnesota
Missouri
Ohio
Oregon
South Carolina
Utah

What’s more, active efforts are underway in 22 remaining states, and going well in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.

We contacted multiple coaches, administrators and club directors to gather information on the upcoming season with a postseason recap to follow in a few months. Please e-mail [email protected] to provide information or feedback.

Arizona

Sandra Day O’Conner is the favorite, led by opposite Finn Kearney, outside Carter King and setter Keagin Christenson. Trevell Jordan of Desert Ridge, one of the top middles in the country, who spent time in the USA gym last summer with Kearny. Challenging Sandra Day O’Connor will be Higley, Highland and Casteel.
Top Programs
1 — Casteel
2 — Highland
3 –Higley
4 – Perry
5 — Sandra Day O’Connor
Players to watch
S – Keagin Christenson (Sandra Day O’Connor)
MB — Trevell Jordan (Desert Ridge)
OPP – Finn Kearney (Sandra Day O’Connor)
OH — Carter King (Sandra Day O’Connor)
OH – Connor Oldani (Brophy)
Noteworthy: With local university Grand Canyon (currently No. 2 in the nation) doing so well, more area boys are getting involved in the sport. Fear and Aspire are two of the national travel club teams that help Arizona athletes prepare for high school.
Quoteworthy: “I wish I had one more year with all my teammates. I am going to make the most of this season and prepare to play at GCU.” – Trevell Jordan.

Central and Northern California

Top Programs
1 — Clovis East
2 — Clovis
3 — Valley Christian, San Jose
4 — Sanger
5 — Bishop O’Dowd
Players to watch:
OH — Tyler Alden (Valley Christian, San Jose) 
OH — Cameron Kosty (Bishop O’Dowd)
OPP – Daniel DeVine (Saint Francis)
OPP — Gurshab Singh (Clovis East)
MB – Lucas Winn (Castro Valley)
Noteworthy: A good number of athletes from these regions will play at high academic colleges, including Stanford, NYU, Vassar, MIT, Princeton and Harvard. Many train with the Bay to Bay and Mountain View clubs … Bishop O’Dowd’s Kosty is the son of Stanford men’s coach John Kosty.
Quoteworthy:“I have never had a team like I had last year and am excited for the 2024 season because all key players are returning. With all the obstacles we keep overcoming we can’t help but think that something special must be on the horizon.” — Valley Christan coach Moni Tautu

Cathedral Catholic

San Diego

The San Diego CIF Section includes more than 100 teams and is loaded with talent.  There are five different sections in San Diego and six high schools will be named CIF champions. Top teams qualify for the Open CIF section tournament.  Carlsbad, Torrey Pines, La Costa Canyon, Del Norte and Cathedral Catholic will be the heavy favorites to win an open title.  All these programs have multiple club players and many are committed to colleges.
Top programs
1 – Carlsbad
2 — Cathedral Catholic
3 – Del Norte
4 – La Costa Canyon
5 – Torrey Pines
Players to watch: 
MB — Maddox Brandenburg (La Costa Canyon)
OHChristian Connell (Torrey Pines)
MB — Alex Engels (Cathedral Catholic)
MB — Roman Payne (Carlsbad)
MB/OPP — Parker Tomkinson (Carlsbad)
Noteworthy: The Best of The West 32-team tournament takes place in San Diego and the top teams from Orange County, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Northern California, Arizona and San Diego compete are all in it. Not surprisingly, many of the top teams at this tournament go on to win section and state titles. 
Quoteworthy: “There are some quality teams in San Diego. I expect the usual suspects such as Carlsbad, Del Norte, Cathedral, and Torrey Pines to be the Open contenders. I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out.” — Head Coach Nick Rubacky of Torrey Pines.
“I am excited going into the season. We have all but two of our starters from our ’23 CIF Championship team. There are a lot of talented squads in San Diego and it should be a competitive season.” — Ryan Enos, Cathedral Catholic.

Loyola

Southern California Section

The Southern Section is massive and loaded with talent. Along the coast, teams like Corona Del Mar, Huntington, Loyola, Newport, Mira Costa and Redondo will be competing for the Division I CIF title. In the Inland Empire, Lake Elsinore, Clairmont, and Upland are expected to be among the teams to beat. In 2023 Loyola won CIF, State and finished ranked No. 1 in the in final AVCA rankings.
Top Programs
1 – Corona Del Mar
2 – Huntington 
3 — Loyola
4 – Newport Harbor
5 – Mira Costa
Players to watch:
OH – Sean Kelly (Loyola)
OH – Victor Loiola (Mira Costa)
S – Jake Pazanti (Huntington)
S – Trent Taliaferro (J Serra)
OH – Marek Turner (Woodrow Wilson)
Noteworthy: Many of the top NCAA men’s teams are located in this region as well as some of the top boys club teams. Mira Costa’s Loiola is the son of Brazilian Olympian and beach coaching great Jose Loiola, a UCLA beach assistant coach. 
Quoteworthy: “Every year is a new year and the competition continues to rise with our sport growing at a rapid pace. I’m fired up to start the season, compete and hopefully bring home another championship.” — Loyola coach Michael Boehle, the AVCA 2023 Coach of the year.

Colorado

Top Programs
1 — Cherokee Trail
2 — Douglas County
3 — Mountain Vista
4 — Valor Christian
5 — Legend
Players to watch
OH – John Clinton (Cherokee Trail)
S — Jensen Pascua (Douglas County)
OH — Gabe Repplinger (Valor Christian)
OH — Paxton Wright (Legend)
OH — Shawn Zheng (Heritage)
Noteworthy: Colorado has been a model state on how to start up boys volleyball. This is the fourth year of sport being sanctioned and the first year of having two classes (4A and 5A).
Quoteworthy: “With more and even better teams in Colorado, state is up for grabs for anyone to win. This year there will be even more upsets, five-set matches and tougher regular-season games.” — Gabriel Repplinger of Valor Christian.

Connecticut

Darien finished 26-0 last year, beating Trumbull to win the state title in a five-set thriller. Darien is led by setter Griffith Crouse and outside hitter Thomas Herget.
Top Programs
1 — Darien
2 — Trumbull
3 — Joel Barlow
4 – Cheshire
5 — Newington
Players to watch
OH — Will Allen (Cheshire)
S — Griffith Crouse (Darien)
OH — Alex Llach (Joel Barlow)
OH — Thomas Herget (Darien)
MB — Matti Lilback (Cheshire)
Noteworthy: Connecticut has had sanctioned volleyball for years and the sport continues to grow, with several new programs this year. The Connecticut Volleyball league was created last year, uniting all of the schools in conferences that don’t have a consistent schedule within their conference. The CIAC sponsors an in-season tournament each spring.
Quoteworthy: “Opportunities for boys to play volleyball continue to grow in Connecticut within high school and also in club. With the addition of the new league in high school volleyball last year, we saw a lot of changes in the postseason tournament qualifications and rankings, so it will be interesting to see how those changes as schedules re-balance this year. It’s an exciting time of growth and also improvement in the level of play of boys volleyball in Connecticut. Looking forward to this spring season.” — Xavier coach Stefanie G. Reay 

Southwest

Florida

Defending-champion Southwest comes in as the favorite, led by outside hitter and 2023 state player of the year Juanmarco Diaz. Last season, Southwest finished 28-2 record and beat Cardinal Gibbons in four sets in the state final. Winter Park, led by setter. Jacob Little Phillips, will challenge.  
Top Programs
1 – King’s Academy
2 – Lake Howell
3 – Timber Creek
4 — Southwest
5 – Winter Park
Players to watch
OH – Juanmarco Diaz (Southwest)
OH – JP Candrian (Horizon) 
S – Jacob Little Phillips (Winter Park)
S/OPP – Micah Tumas (King’s Academy)
OH – Tyler Windt (Lake Howell)
Noteworthy: In the past couple of years AAU is where the top club teams are playing in national tournaments. Orlando is the site of the massive AAU Boys Club Championship event from late June to early July. All the top youth volleyball players compete in Florida and college coaches will be watching.
Quoteworthy: “Florida has produced its fair amount of strong collegiate recruits. The past three years athletes went to Long Beach, Ohio State, Lewis, Grand Canyon, Stanford and UCLA, just to name a few. The 2024 graduating class from Florida will continue the trend of producing highly recruited athletes, with the anticipation of even stronger class graduating in 2025 from Florida.” — George Mason assistant coach Roger Peluso, former national-champion club coach in Florida

Kamehameha in 2023, from left, Harryzen Soares, Heston Cabinian, Kainoa Wade, Poukihi Awai, Kaupo Hoopai Waikoloa

Hawaii

In 2023, Hawaii high schools —  Moanalua, ‘Iolani, and Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama — accounted for three of the top 16 (Gold Bracket) at the 2023 Best of the West Tournament in San Diego. Hawaii Baptist won the 2023 Beach City Invitational in La Jolla, while back in Honolulu, Punahou School won its Clash of the Titans, defeating Mira Costa and Bishop O’Dowd. And,despite regular-season losses to Hawaii Baptist Academy, ‘Iolani School, and Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama, rallied to win another HHSAA state championship by defeating nationally ranked Moanalua and Kamehameha-Kapalama.
Top Programs
1 — Kamehameha (Kapalama Campus)
2 — Punahou School
3 — Iolani School
4 — Moanalua HS
5 — University Laboratory School
Players to watch
S — Kanalu Akana (Punahou School)
OH — Trey Ambrozich (University Laboratory School)
OH — Koa Laboy (University Laboratory School)
OH — Evan Porter (Punahou School)
OPP — Afatia Thompson (Punahou School)
OPP — Kainoa Wade (Kamehameha Kapalama)
Noteworthy: Hawaii is still consistently producing a ton of talent. Universities across the country are still trying to connect with this small but talented island of volleyball players. In the last two Olympics, three of the 12 USA players were from Hawaii … Kainoa Wade is the son of Hawai’i coach Charlie Wade.
Quoteworthy:  “Hawaii continues to produce skilled and athletic student-athletes with great competitive spirit and high character. The kids are passionate and motivated to learn, and the coaches all across the state are guiding them at all levels to be all they can be. It has quality learning opportunities and fun experiences for the boys, and it has been thoroughly entertaining for families and fans.  I expect more to come in 2024.” — Jordan Inafuku, ‘Iolani School

Indiana

In 2023, Indiana boys volleyball surpassed 100 teams as it transitions to be a sanctioned IHSAA sport, a trend expected to grow in 2024. Roncalli High School, which won it all in 2022, did it again last year. The Royals graduated nine key seniors but has a large group ready to emerge. Roncalli will be challenged by Cathedral High School, Brebeuf Jesuit, Hamilton Southeastern, and the team that played in last year’s title match, Fishers.
Top Programs
1 — Cathedral
2 — Roncalli
3 –Fishers
4 –Brebeuf Jesuit
5 –Hamilton Southeastern

Ben Hutchinson

Players to Watch
S — Gavin Hagerty (Fishers)
OH — Ben Hutchinson (Brebeuf Jesuit)
L — Mikey Millikan (Brebeuf Jesuit)
MB — Ryan Peterson (Cathedral)
S — Nick Whitley (Cathedral)
Noteworthy: Beginning in 1995 Rhonda Low met with the IHSAA yearly to give updates on the growth of boys volleyball to ensure IHSAA knew the organization was playing by the same rules as the girls to be absorbed seamlessly. In 2023, the IHSAA board’s vote was unanimous for boys’ volleyball to begin emerging sport status in 2023.

Quoteworthy: “After the graduation of many talented players in the 2023 class there is an opening for many teams to claim a spot in the top five. With the exponential growth and eventual sanction of the sport the talent pool is as deep as ever, which will only continue to make every season more and more competitive. For me, the team that will come out on top this year is the one that is consistently training with the most intensity which pays off dividends when you get to regionals and state.”  Brebeuf Jesuit outside hitter Ben Hutchinson

Glenbard West

Illinois

Glenbard West is looking for a three-peat but will have to hold off Lyons Township and Marist. The Illinois region is filled with college commits, including a large number at the DI-II level.
Top Programs
1 — Glenbrook South
2 — Glenbard West
3 — Lyons Township
4 — Marist
5 — Barrington
Players to watch
OH — Cole Hartke (Barrington)
OH — Luka Kostic (Lyons Township)
OH — Jack Mally (Geneva)
S — Christian Teresi (Marist)
S — Kyle Zediker (Saint Francis)
Noteworthy: Chicago continues to be a hotbed in the Midwest. For decades athletes from the Windy City have gone on to play in NCAA DI-II and in the winter of 2023 Chicago held a club AAU tournament that featured over 700 teams.
Quoteworthy: “Illinois is definitely not a state to look past for high school boys volleyball, with super talented players and an extremely competitive playoff series. We are a dangerous region and the top teams could definitely compete with those of other regions.” — Whitney Young’s Marty O’Brien

Kentucky

Kentucky has made great progress, with about 30 teams playing this year and the KHSAA will sponsor a state tournament in 2025. Traditionally, the hub of boys high school volleyball in the state has been in Louisville, due in no small part to the existence of Louisville Fury Volleyball Club. Saint Xavier has claimed 20 club state championships since the 1990s. Trinity has won just about every year that Saint Xavier has not. Saint Xavier won the battle in the 2023 state final.
Top programs
1 — Saint Xavier
2 — Trinity
3 — Lafayette
4 – DeSales
5 — Henry Clay
Players to watch
S — Sammy Debilzan (Lafayette)
OH — Myles McGee (Trinity) 
MB — Cooper Thomas (Saint Xavier) 
OPP — Gabe Sterlitz (Dunbar) 
OH — Tyler Harrington (DeSales)
Noteworthy: The newer programs from the Lexington area are growing rapidly, helped in part by the Bluegrass Lightning Volleyball Club providing an opportunity outside of the high school season.
Quoteworthy: “Since I started teaching 12 years ago, my students have asked if they could start a boys volleyball team. I always laughed and said I would coach, but who would we play, unless you want to drive to Louisville for every game. Six years ago, I had my first legitimate request when some Lafayette students asked to start a team to be able to play Henry Clay and West Jessamine. Since then, the sport has exploded with 12 high schools in the Lexington area, 10 in Louisville and small pods in Frankfort, Eastern and northern Kentucky. 42 teams have confirmed their participation for the 2024 season, with the hopes of gaining a few more as we get closer to officially starting our season March 18. There are some great players across the state. As it becomes more established and we can get programs started for younger age groups, the level of play and number of schools participating is going to continue to grow.  I’m truly excited to be able to see it grow from the ground up in the Lexington area and see where it goes in the coming years.” — Lafayette coach Matthew Stegman

TUESDAY: Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah

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