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By Nathan Pace
Thanks to a state championship in 2018, boys’ volleyball is growing at Roncalli High School and throughout the Southside.
Roncalli coach John Kesterson is noticing an upswing in interest of the sport at RHS, particularly because the Rebels are the defending state champions.
“It’s the second fastest sport in the United States as far as growth for boys and it’s the fastest for indoor sports,” Kesterson said. “Most of these boys, they travel. They play year-round. They really dedicate their lives to this sport.”
Franklin Central picked up a boys’ volleyball club team this season joining Roncalli, Perry Meridian and Southport that had programs previously. Center Grove won a state championship in 2008; coupled with Roncalli’s state title, the sport is at a new peak locally.
“I’ve wanted to come to Roncalli and play volleyball for the Rebels as long as I’ve been playing,” senior setter Sam Eiland said.
“To come here and win it its first state championship; I mean that’s a dream come true. I’m really excited about the direction it’s going in. Even this year, schools have been adding it on the high school level. Colleges are picking it up left and right – really excited to see it becoming more prominent.”
Roncalli’s team was relatively undersized last season but rolled to a 29-3 record. The Rebels took out the Irish of Cathedral in the finale, 3-1 (25-15, 23-25, 25-20, 25-22). The achievement exemplified how the team had grown.
“The program has grown a lot more in sophistication,” senior libero Austin Hendricks said. “Being known as a really good program. I think every boy that’s on varsity this year played club. Any other high school in this state, you won’t find that.”
Roncalli has a had great start this season by going 8-2 in its first 10 head-to-head matches. The team stands as the final squad to finish a full season in the school’s “Woodshed” gymnasium as the Rebels move their indoor sports teams to a new gym next year.
“We love this, it’s a huge homecourt advantage due to the low ceiling,” Kesterson said. “You have to be a great passing team to have success in here. So, we will schedule a few games in here just for fun,” Kesterson said.
Boys’ volleyball is not an official sport in the IHSAA; the schools only compete on the club level. Kesterson and his players hope a growing popularity could change that, which is why rival schools support one another in the sport.
“We have to support each other because we are technically a club program,” Kesterson said. “We want this to be a sanctioned sport as it should be because it’s a very exciting game,” Kesterson concluded.
Roncalli’s next home game is April 24 against Franklin as postseason play is less than a month away.