The absurdity has developed into awareness.
The overmatched team has turned its matches into an “it isn’t over until it is over” prospect.
Horizon Honors boys volleyball team has already come along in its first year of existence in a short time. Some of the players had no clue about the basics of the game when preseason practice began. At times there was more teaching of the game than actually playing, in order to get the volleyball IQ up.
But they are certainly playing now. The Eagles beat Dobson, a school with about 3,000 students, on Tuesday by the score of 25-17, 15-25, 20-25, 25-19, 15-4.
Not bad for a school that has 400 students and never put a boys volleyball team on the floor until playing at Skyline on March 4 and headed into Thursday’s match at Chandler with a 2-4 record.
“We have come so far and it is because they are a great group of boys who work hard so it has made it easier,” said coach Lisa Barlow, who also runs the Tempe Prep girls program. “It’s really unbelievable if you go back to our first meeting or practice.”
Long before Patrick McPherson (29 kills), Trevor Weary (37 assists), Tony Salatino (37 digs), Zack Baker (14 blocks), Kole Powell (15 aces) and others started making plays Barlow had to wonder what she got herself into.
“We had to go beyond the basics and fundamentals,” she chuckled. “They didn’t know you can’t hit it two times in a row, you get three attempts to get it over, or that kicking the ball was frowned upon and there were even some headers attempted because we have some soccer players.”
Once they got that straightened out there were still things to overcome when it came to having a natural feel or court awareness that comes with experience considering there was only player — freshman captain Trevor Weary — with experience.
“We basically had 900 square feet of playing surface,” Barlow said. “A helicopter could land there, but I had one player keep hitting the ball off the back wall because it sounded cool. They are getting it now. There are nuisances to this great sport and they’ve learned to love it.”
She didn’t have to worry about it with Weary, who basically got the movement for beginning a program by talking to athletic director Nate Agostini about starting one. Agostini and principal Nancy Emmons had already broached the idea.
Weary has played the last couple of years with the Aspire volleyball club and he didn’t want to have to change schools in order to play the game he loved.
“I started playing for Aspire and knew I wanted to play in high school,” Weary said. “I started thinking about Desert Vista or Mountain Pointe, but I didn’t want to leave. It’s been great.”
The 6-foot-5 Weary and his nine teammates are getting a unique chance of setting the foundation for a program, which has enough players out to field a junior varsity squad.
“I’m just a freshman so I can’t wait to see where we are after each year,” said Weary, who plays setter and right-side hitter. “We’ve already come a long pretty good. Some of these guys didn’t know what they were doing, but now we have a pretty good feel for each other and what to expect.”
Barlow spent the early part of the preseason explaining the game and why this is done or how to execute that.
“I spent a huge part of my time just trying to increase the volleyball IQ,” she said. “We talked about whys all day. Why are we going here with the ball. They now understand the concept of why, but they still don’t always do it.”
But it is happening more frequently than the early going as the Eagles prepare for the meat of the schedule that includes most of the state powers as Arizona went to one single division for boys volleyball last season.
Chances are the Eagles will struggle competing against some of these team, but it won’t be because Horizon Honors will not back down or hit the ball against the back wall because it sounds cool.
“Our motto of the season is ‘Respect all and fear none,’” Barlow said. “We are up against some tough competitions, but don’t fear them. Play your game. It’s going to set the standard for us for years to come.”
The Eagles will keep making strides the rest of the year and seasons beyond. It’s already clear they will not be embarrassed and will come ready to play every match.
“We want to get other kids excited about next season, encourage others to come out and want them all to leave with a positive experience,” Barlow said. “It’s not about wins and losses, right now. It’s really not. I quote John Wooden all the time. Success is doing the best you are capable of doing all of the time. And that’s what we do, every day in the gym.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.