OHSAA Sanction Boosts Growth of Men’s High School Volleyball

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Sitting at the last Ohio High School Boys Volleyball Association State Tournament in early June, Matt Mihelic was excited about the growth on the horizon for the sport.

But he hadn’t expected such growth.

“(Growth) was our goal,” said Mihelic, who is the executive director of OHSBVA and its liaison with the Ohio High School Athletic Association. “We have heard that many schools are offering this opportunity to their students – somewhere in the 150s at the moment.

“Just by offering it, it’s going to open up a whole new world for a lot of people to start men’s volleyball in their community or in their high school. It’s really a big step forward for all of us, and we’re delighted.

Turns out 150 was a low estimate. According to the OHSAA, there will be 186 teams when men’s volleyball begins next spring under the organization’s umbrella. There were 92 teams last season.

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Central Ohio will see an increase from 37 to 52 teams, thanks in part to the City League adding Centennial, Columbus South, Mifflin and Walnut Ridge to its programs at Beechcroft, Briggs, Eastmoor Academy, Northland and Whetstone .

Other programs added are Caledonia River Valley, Columbus Academy, Fairbanks, Fredericktown, Granville, Lakewood, Galion Northmor, Marion Pleasant, Sparta Highland, Tree of Life and Westland.

The growth is statewide. The Northwest District will have 16 teams, 15 of which will be freshman programs, and the East District will have eight all-new teams.

“I think seeing more than Central, Southwest and Northeast (Ohio) is a good thing,” said Emily Mason, a senior OHSAA athletic administrator who will oversee boys’ and girls’ volleyball. . “That means there’s growth across the state. I’m not sure we expected that.

However, despite the increase, Mason does not foresee the sport immediately adding a post-season third division.

“Certainly for the first year, it’s going to stay at two divisions,” she said. “But if it continues to grow like this, who knows?”

Dublin Jerome's Kai Van Bourgondien prepares the ball for Alex Loeffler during a regional final against Thomas Worthington May 28 at Westerville Central.  In OHSAA's first sanction year in 2023, men's volleyball will grow from 92 to 186 programs.

Mission accomplished with the sanction of the Ohio High School Athletic Association

OHSAA announced the sanctioning of men’s volleyball and women’s wrestling in January as emerging sports. It administers emerging sports like its other sports, but imposes additional requirements that could lead to full sanction.

The announcement was long in coming for the OHSBVA and its coaching association, which began hosting a state tournament in 1988.

“I’m so excited,” Mason said. “(OHSBVA) has been a wonderful organization to work with. I’ve worked with the sport of volleyball since I started in 2014. I’ve always been involved in conversations with the coaching association, so it’s very exciting that we’ve finally presented it to the coaching council. administration (OHSAA) and that we have through.

The OHSBVA has been “patient,” according to Mason, especially since the volleyball boys’ desire to be sanctioned by OHSAA was far from secret.

“I played at (Worthington) Kilbourne in the late 90s and it was something we talked about back then,” said Olentangy Berlin coach James Cornett, who graduated from Kilbourne in 1999 who was a Wolves first-team player as a player. Senior. “We thought it could happen at the time. … I think a lot of people don’t realize how long it took the guys in volleyball to get to this point.

Cincinnati Moeller won Division I for its 10th championship and Hamilton Badin won his first Division II title at the final OHSBVA State Tournament, held June 4-5 at Pickerington Central.

The event saw a premiere when the Coaching Association inducted Scott Ebright as its first member of its Hall of Fame. Ebright, who died of cancer in 2018, coached Thomas Worthington for 14 seasons and was instrumental in the OHSAA sanctioning process.

“We want to honor our past while moving forward,” Mihelic said.

Mihelic said the efforts of former OHSBVA executive directors Craig Erford and Gary Hayek deserve much of the credit for helping the sport get organized.

“(Erford and Hayek) worked really well together to really get us going, getting organized and putting together all the information for finance and officials,” Mihelic said. “(They did) everything we needed to look organized for OHSAA and be organized to make this transition a lot smoother for us.”

With the sport’s transition to OHSAA, the OHSBVA will no longer exist, but the Coaches Association will remain to conduct state polls and post-season honors.

“It’s a bit bittersweet,” Olentangy Liberty coach David Hale said. “On the one hand, the OHSBVA has done a great job in organizing the tournament. Everything was executed at the level you would expect from any type of tournament run by anyone. I think it’s because of the leadership we have at the top of the association.

While the postseason tournament had only one division for its first 19 years, the recent growth seems like a natural extension of OHSAA’s involvement.

“(Men’s Volleyball) brings in a lot of athletes who haven’t played another sport,” Mason said. “If you consider yourself a student, you don’t know how to go and explore a sport unless it’s (offered) at your high school.”

Cameron Hoying (7) of DeSales would like to see the men's volleyball state tournament return to a college venue.

Changes underway for Ohio high school volleyball?

The sanction means the playoffs, which are now organized into regions, could change to a format that is more like other OHSAA tournaments.

“In the future, we could definitely see district-level tournaments,” Mason said. “For this first year, we will manage everything from the (OHSAA) office. So everything will basically be called a regional (tournament), but it will be regional qualifying tournaments instead. Rather, it will be a district week and a regional week. We just don’t call them district weeks because the district athletic councils don’t run them.

It also means there will be no more playoff doubleheaders, and the state final will likely be moved to Memorial Day weekend due to the stalemate of other sports ending the first week of June, such as softball, lacrosse and track and field.

“I don’t know if there are a lot of things that need to be changed,” Hale said. “I think the format is really good because we’ve tried to make sure it’s the premier tournament that’s going on. That’s the reason why we’re able to (change to) OHSAA l ‘next year.

The state tournament will likely return to a college venue after being played at Pickerington Central for the past two seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Right now the attendance wouldn’t need a venue as big as Wright State,” Mason said. “But I think we would definitely like to be at a university or some college place. They’ve worked with Capital in the past and we’ve also had a few small (colleges) contact us.

Playing on a university site would be exciting for athletes.

“My first thought was that we were going to play in a big college arena,” said Cameron Hoying of DeSales, a rising senior. “A few years ago our women’s volleyball team (won a state title at Wright State) in Division I. Just playing in this big arena…the atmosphere is really different.”

One of the biggest changes occurs on the sidelines, where athletes will no longer be able to stand up to cheer on their teammates. This is against the rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which sets the rules for all OHSAA-sanctioned sports.

“It’s part of the culture of our program,” said Kai Van Bourgondien, Dublin’s rising elder Jerome. “All of our guys are up. We like to encourage our teammates. … Overall, (standing) brings a better environment.

Mason said OHSAA likely won’t make any changes unless the NFHS acts first.

Mihelic said the blue and red ball was here to stay.

“It plays differently than what the girls use,” he said. “We know we’ll keep the ball and that’s a pretty cool thing for us. Most (of the changes) will be administrative, but it will feel like a very similar game for the casual fan.

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