Volleyball using OHSAA sanctioning to grow program

Jack Rhoten serves in a match last season. Rhoten is one of six returning varsity players.

Sean Speidel | The Chronicle

Now recognized by the state, the Mason Boys Volleyball team is ready to take its game to the next level. 

In January 2021, The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) officially sanctioned the sports of boys volleyball and girls wrestling starting in the 2022-23 school year. After the decision, boys volleyball is now an official Mason High School sport rather than a school-sponsored activity. This means a longer season and the ability to compete for an OHSAA state championship. Over the past few seasons, the team has had a consistent rise in the amount of players trying out and showing interest in the sport.

Senior Layne Walter has played all four years, and said that he is excited to see the sport growing in popularity at the school and that he hopes to see the trend continue with the new sanctioned status.

“The thing about volleyball is that it’s just not a very common thing for guys to do,” Walter said. “It’s really cool to see more people getting involved”

The team has always taken the sport of volleyball very seriously, but now that their sport is officially sanctioned by the OHSAA, senior Caleb Hershberger said he expects the team to be even more driven and focused on winning in the 2023 season as the OHSAA’s decision ripples with other schools.

“I think the intensity will ramp up a bit,” Hershberger said. “Everyones pushing up against each other trying to make everyone else better.”

As more students begin to get involved with the team, their following is growing as well. Hershberger credits this partially to the sanctioning of boys’ volleyball by the OHSAA, and that the increased interest will help the sport as a whole to continue to grow.

“It makes it feel more important. It feels like people are going to start to care about it more,” Hershberger said. “Which I think just helps everyone get more interested and invested in the sport.”

After graduating many impactful seniors at the end of last season, including Anthony Fago, who holds the school record for most career kills, Mason is looking to continue to compete at a high level in the Greater Miami Conference.

Walter said that with many new players entering the rotation, they hope to progress and cultivate into a force to be reckoned with in Ohio’s first state-sanctioned season.

“It hurts to lose a lot of our prominent hitters like Anthony Fago and Will Burke,” Walter said. “But we have a lot of new talent and if we develop them well enough we could be a really good team.”

Ben Golan records a block in a match against Lakota East last season.

Following a second place finish in the GMC last year, the team is hopeful to bounce back and win the conference for the first time in program history. Hershberger said that he would love to make program history this season and thinks that winning the conference is not out of reach for the team.

“Personally, I would love to see this team compete to win the GMC,” Hershberger said. “I think that’s realistic, achievable, and a good goal for us to have.”

In past years, private schools have dominated the Boys’ Volleyball Scene, but Walter said that he hopes the sanctioning of the sport and its recent growth in popularity will help to narrow the gap between growing teams like Mason and the established programs in the Cincinnati area.

“There has been a gap between all of the catholic schools and all of the public schools,” Walter said. “Now that the sport is state-sanctioned, that gap is going to close very quickly.”

As the sport is now officially recognized by MHS and the OHSAA, players believe that their program will continue to grow. Hershberger said he expects the team will be held in a higher regard than ever.

“I feel like we will get more respect,” Hershberger said. “The fact that it’s actually becoming a school sport will just make people take us more seriously.”

Photos by Photo by Izzy Herrlinger