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The La Salle Falconer

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La Salle’s First Boys Volleyball Team Makes Its Debut

John Pham
The boys volleyball team practicing in La Salle’s Brick Oven.

Athletic Director Mr. Chris George was first introduced to the idea of bringing boys volleyball to La Salle in the spring of 2023. Being a student-led initiative, the addition of a boys volleyball team was made possible in part by student advocates, Mr. George, parents of students in the program, and donations from the Booster Club.

Creating a volleyball team for boys entailed a lot of unseen work by both administration and by students. The process of creating a new team at any school is complex and requires research on student interest, possible program support, and many other factors, according to Mr. George. 

This is especially true of boys volleyball, as it is currently considered an ‘emerging activity’ in Oregon, meaning that the OSAA has not yet garnered enough widespread support to be able to declare the activity an official high school sport. It is currently being considered to be a full-fledged OSAA adopted sport. 

Senior Tyler Smith has been one of the students who has voiced interest in the sport and brought the initiative to Mr. George. He played for the Clackamas High School’s boys volleyball team last season, but had wished that his own school had a team. Stemming from this desire, he decided to seriously consider the creation of the first ever boys volleyball team at La Salle. 

“It’s been super impressive to see student leaders get organized and to be steadfast in their approach to organize a team and to organize open gyms on their own and to really lead their peers to this point,” Mr. George said.

After student interest was voiced, Mr. George began the official process of creating a team. While it was not a simple process, he wanted to create a future for boys volleyball at La Salle. 

“Our approach this year was such that we wanted to do a good job resource wise, trying to do it right from the beginning, so getting good quality uniforms, getting good quality equipment, getting a coach that we believe is a good hire, invested, and wants to be coaching at La Salle for multiple years,” Mr. George said. “In order to do that, we wanted to make sure that we could put some resources toward it.”

The Booster Club helped with funding the sport in respect to equipment and things like uniforms, while families support their students individually. Mr. George compares this seasons’ requirements for participation to that of ski and snowboarding; students may have to purchase things on their own to be able to participate in the sport due to the nature of each being not entirely school budgeted. Luckily, much of the equipment that the boys’ volleyball team uses is shared with the girls volleyball team, so those resources were already there for them to use.

“We want to make this sustainable; we don’t want this to just be a one-year thing,” Mr. George said. He hopes that this program will continue in future years, and is working to ensure that the resources they invest in are worthwhile.

Part of this effort was finding a coach who is committed to the sport and to the players. The head boys volleyball coach at La Salle, Denis Zhukov, is a former professional athlete, as he played for a number of club teams around the world and competed in two world championships

Coach Zhukov currently coaches at MDC Volley, a non-profit volleyball club, and was originally brought to La Salle by current La Salle students who play club volleyball, according to Mr. George. Associates of Coach Zhukov’s also help volunteer at La Salle boys volleyball practices from time to time.

As team captain of the volleyball team, Smith has been making efforts for months to jumpstart participation among students. 

Getting people to sign up wasn’t difficult for Smith, as he had talked to many of his peers and gathered that they thought it was an exciting sport and a fun opportunity. For the first open gym he held, Smith had 20 people show up, but it was getting students to stay committed that he found to be most difficult. However, once players had a taste of volleyball, they “started to fall in love with the sport,” Smith said. 

Prior to their first game of the season, all but four players had never played in a volleyball game before, according to Smith. Freshman Zephir Wilson and sophomores Evan O’Neil and Jayden Gilbert are the only players who have played club volleyball previously besides Smith. Despite the sport being new to many members of the team, Smith is optimistic that they will be able to play competitively and pick up the sport quickly. 

Smith believes that the season is going well, despite there being an age gap between players, as the majority are freshmen; the team has begun to connect with both each other and the sport. “They’re all committed to it, and that’s awesome,” Smith said. 

The team has a total of 13 students, with the majority of the students being freshmen and sophomores, with the exception of two seniors and one junior. They practice two to three times a week and typically have games on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

The league that La Salle is a part of for boys volleyball is a ten-team league, including Ashland High School, Bend/Mountain View High School, Hood River Valley HS, Molalla High School, Parkrose High School, Silverton High School, South Albany/Santiam Christian/West Albany High School, Summit High School, and Thurston/Mannahouse (Eugene)/Mohawk High School. 

In thanking the members of the community that gave donations towards the boys volleyball team, Mr. George offers gratitude. 

“There were some donations that came in, which is unbelievable and awesome, because it’s hard to get those, you can’t bank on that,” he said. “Also, when something’s brand new, they’re taking a leap of faith.”

If you are interested in volunteering as a line judge for upcoming events, contact [email protected]. The next boys volleyball game will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 9, at Portland Adventist Academy. 

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