Go the distance: Two local boys win national club volleyball title with Nebraska team | High School Volleyball – QCVarsity.com

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Men’s volleyball is one of the fastest growing sports at the high school level. There are more than 20 states across the country that have sanctioned the sport and nearly 70,000 people participate.

The buzz, however, has yet to catch on in the Quad-Cities. It is not sanctioned by the Iowa High School Athletic Association, and most schools in Illinois that offer it are located in suburban Chicago.

Austin Beaird and Austin Kerker hope that can change.

Beaird and Kerker, who graduated from Erie and Alleman High Schools respectively this spring, were members of the Lincoln, Neb.-based High Flyers 18U volleyball club, which won a USAV Boys Junior National Championship earlier this month in Las Vegas. .

“Boys want to play volleyball, but it’s hard to find opportunities to do that in that field,” Beaird said. “Finding a club here, without having connections, is very difficult.”

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Iowa Select, a Davenport-based club, offered a 16U and 18U men’s team this year. Platform Elite, also out of the Quad-Cities, had 14U and 15U teams.

But as established players, Beaird and Kerker were looking for more. They wanted a higher level of competition. They wanted an exhibition at the university.

Beaird began following High Flyers program member and Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln student Liam Lutz on Instagram after playing in a tournament against him in his freshman year. They befriended and played in a sand tournament in Omaha.

“I started connecting with him and we talked about forming a team to play together,” Beaird said.

The initial idea was to have a team based in the Des Moines area, which would be midway for both parties. It fell into the water.

“Once we realized it wouldn’t work, we rejected the idea if we went over there and joined the High Flyers,” Kerker said.

After playing for Iowa Select for the past two years, Kerker and Beaird made the decision to join the High Flyers last fall.

Beginning last October, Christina Groesch – Beaird’s mother and head coach of the girls’ volleyball at Davenport West – drove the boys to Lincoln (about 5 hours each way) for weekend practices. end twice a month.

They would leave on Saturday morning, participate in a three-hour practice in the afternoon with the High Flyers, spend the night with their teammates, and then have another three-hour practice on Sunday before heading home.

It was a major commitment.

“I spoke to the parents and said, ‘Hey, this is their senior year. You will understand once you see them playing at a higher level, how excited and happy they are,” Groesch said. a sport they love.”

Kerker had to create a PowerPoint presentation for his parents explaining why it was a good idea for him to join a club program over 350 miles away.

“The first tournament my mom went to, she saw our team play together and she was like, ‘Oh, I get it now,'” Kerker said. “Once you see it in person, it’s completely different.”

The High Flyers 18U team, made up of six seniors and two juniors, finished second among 68 teams in January at the National Qualifiers in Chicago.

Beaird missed more than three months of action in the spring to recover from knee surgery. He returned to the field for the pre-national tournament in June.

At the Las Vegas National Tournament at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, the High Flyers were the fourth seed.

They went unbeaten through the first two days of competition, had a hiccup on day three of pool but won a decider and then a challenge match to enter the eight-team gold bracket.

On the final day, they beat AJAX (Beaverton, Oregon) 25-22, 25-22 in the quarterfinals and SNVF (located in the greater Seattle area) 26-24, 25-22 in the semifinals before to bring down Santa Monica Beach. Club West (California) in the final, 25-22, 22-25, 17-15.

“I had dreamed of winning a national championship since January,” Kerker said. “If I was spaced out at school or elsewhere, there was a 50% chance that I would think about volleyball or play nationals.

“It was a wonderful experience.”

Kerker was around volleyball in his upbringing. He had two older sisters who gambled and he watched his father compete in local sand competitions.

He will be attending Princeton University this fall majoring in astrophysics and joining the men’s volleyball team.

“My college process wasn’t focused on college volleyball,” he said. “If I had the opportunity after choosing a university, then yes, why not?”

Beaird, meanwhile, had a hunch of playing volleyball at the highest level for over a year. He emailed every Division I men’s volleyball program nationwide in an attempt to get his name out there.

He considered the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Long Island University, and Lees-McRae in North Carolina.

“When I arrived at Lees-McRae, it felt like a home away from home,” Beaird said. “The team was perfect and they were people I could be best friends with. It was important to play at a high level, but the team culture had to be great.”

Pono Yin, former assistant coach of Drake University’s women’s program, is the head coach of the Lees-McRae men’s team.

Beaird is expected to move to North Carolina on August 12 and major in sports management, with aspirations of becoming a college coach. Kerker is heading to Princeton on August 26.

They will go there with a lot of confidence and positive memories of their club experience last year.

“After an entire season and after winning a national championship, everything we’ve done is so worth it,” Kerker said. “Just a big thank you to all the coaches for being so accommodating to us and to the High Flyers family for really making us feel part of their circle.”

Groesch is trying to find a way to help grow the boys’ game in the Quad-Cities. She recently invited two boys to her Davenport West camp and contacted several Mississippi Athletic Conference coaches about possibly putting together a boys’ team.

“It’s an opportunity,” Groesch said. “Volleyball is not just a girl’s game.

“It’s profitable and the start-up costs are minimal. Sanctioning it in Iowa would be a big deal.”

Groesch is confident that things will move in this direction over the next five years.

“Some clubs are afraid to try their luck with men’s volleyball because it could be a loss of profit,” Beaird said. “The Midwest and the South could grow the game a lot if they thought about it and decided to get in on it.”

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