Boys’ Volleyball has makings for another good season

Boys' Volleyball has makings for another good season

Photo: Sam Barton

Senior Ethan Westbeld stands 6'7", which makes him a major presence on the Boys' Varsity Volleyball team.

By Sam Barton, Staff Writer

As the Boys’ Varsity Volleyball team steps up to the net for its first match of the 2013 season, they have high hopes.  The boys will take on Centerville High School at Centerville on Thursday, April 4.

“We have a lot of experienced and good kids playing volleyball this year,” said veteran Volleyball Head Coach Bill Buirley. “We have seniors Cameron Neiheisel, Brad Jones – who broke a school record last year – and Ethan Westbeld, all of whom will be very good players this season.”

Last year’s team won 16 of 26 games and had many achievements, including beating Mt. Vernon, a state-contending team, and taking Centerville to five games, the equivalent of overtime.

“We play a pretty tough schedule,” said Buirley. “I don’t try to duck teams and play only the scrubs. I think that you don’t prepare yourself for the end of the season if you play teams that are sub-par.”

Buirley has coached volleyball for 26 years, which includes 15 years of coaching boys’ volleyball at both Fairmont and Van Buren.

“My philosophy is that you have to know how to correct [the players] as a coach,” said Buirley. “Volleyball is a very mechanical sport; you have to have the right mechanics to do well. As a coach, you have to be able to watch someone perform a skill and say, ‘This is what you need to change.’”

Buirley says his philosophy is based on helping the players learn the game. “I think that if you can positively relay those skills, you’ll have a successful season,” he said. “I’m not an ‘in your face coach’ nor a negative coach.”

Another way to make a season more successful is to have a player who is 6’7”. Ethan Westbeld has the tall, long-armed stature that attracts the attention of volleyball coaches. Westbeld played volleyball for the first time in the 2012 season, playing the front-middle position.

“I guess being 6’7” helps,” said Westbeld. “You have to be able to jump and block, but there are a lot more skills that go into playing volleyball.”

Boys’ volleyball is less popular among high schools and colleges than girls’ volleyball. Only about 30 Division 1 colleges in the United States have boys’ teams, compared to the hundreds that have girls’ teams. As a result, a lot of boys’ volleyball players play on club teams, which are separate than official collegiate teams.

Boys’ volleyball is also a different game than the girls’ sport in terms of playing style. “Boys’ volleyball is a lot more of a power game,” said Buirley. “Whereas girls’ volleyball is more finesse, guys jump high and hit hard without a lot of defense. There are boys who can hit a ball 120 mph; no one can return that.”

Before playing volleyball, Westbeld played basketball in the winter of 2012. “I like volleyball better. It’s a really fun sport and not nearly as serious as basketball.”

But Westbeld understands that volleyball still demands commitment.

“If I want to go to a good college for volleyball, I’ll have to dedicate the whole summer to practicing,” he said. “I’m always trying to get better.”