KETTERING — For the first time in school history, Xenia High School fielded a boys varsity volleyball team.
And they played Ohio’s best in their very first match on Friday, March 24 at Kettering Alter High School.
The host Knights, winners of the Division II boys high school state championship in five of the last six years, and the past three years in a row, took on Xenia for the Buccaneers’ inaugural match.
Um, let’s just say there were a few first-game-ever, jitters going on.
One player was listed on Xenia’s hand-written roster twice. That player’s brother was left off the roster. And when the teams met for the customary handshake before the match, the first few Xenia players went to the wrong side of the net. That drew chuckles from players and fans on both teams.
Xenia’s inaugural match began at 5:03 p.m., and was over roughly a half an hour later.
The three-time defending state champion Alter Knights rolled to a 25-4, 25-7 win.
The champs recorded 20 service aces out of the 50 total points scored in the match.
The fledgling Buccaneers then played Miamisburg in a second match … and nearly won!
Miamisburg has had a boys varsity volleyball program for three years, so they were only slightly more experienced than Xenia. As a result, Xenia matched up a lot better with the Vikings, but fell in straight sets 25-14, 26-24. The Bucs led the second game with Miamisburg, 24-23, but a ‘Burg dink, Xenia net violation and Dylan Burchfield’s ace rallied Miamisburg to the win.
“Those were the first two matches in school history, to my knowledge,” Xenia coach Daniel Cornelius said. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle, but it’s been exciting emotionally. Getting kids interested in the program, and finding kids who are just naturally good at volleyball — that was the biggest surprise there. One of my main setters is a freshman who’s never played before. And all of these kids have never played competitive volleyball before.
“Just getting them in the games and teaching them the little things they need to know, I think we’re a lot better than what I thought we’d be”
For the record, the very first Xenia High boys volleyball team match was played by Hasan Akinyele, Husein Akinyele, Jameson Jobos, Dacota Jackson, Paul Johnson, Mark Johnson, A.J. Flinn, Josh Williams, Antonio Olvera, Davion Clemons, Eli Caldwell and Chris Brodsky.
“That was their very first match in existence for their program, so we’re glad we could have them in there and introduce them to volleyball,” eight-year Alter coach Craig Erford said. “Boys volleyball is one of the largest growing sports in the United States, especially at the collegiate level. … Getting kids into the sport at this level really helps develop that IQ and understanding the flow. That was probably the first time those guys had ever played.”
In the Xenia-Miamisburg match, it was the team with three years of game experience that halted play for nearly six minutes with a bit of lineup rotation confusion.
Veteran match official Monique Huffman applauded Xenia’s players for how they performed in their first time out.
“(Xenia) tried to take three hits every time, which is commendable. They would’ve got a few more points if they would’ve got their serves in, but they even won some volleys. They won a volley from Alter, and they won quite a few of them in that last set with Miamisburg. Not a bad job.”
The Bucs will have a few days to re-access their opening matches and regroup. Originally scheduled to play a first-year program from West Carrollton next, that team folded. So as a result, Xenia’s next boys varsity match will take place April 4, at home, against Trenton Edgewood.
“I see us getting better with each time we take the court. I’m proud of these guys,” Cornelius said.
You can reach John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.