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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Credit Terry Wick for persistence.
For 15 years the psychology and history teacher at Hartford pushed for the school to add a boys volleyball team. Finally last spring, with a little help from the WIAA, the school decided to add the sport.
"We went from a conference that didn't have boys volleyball to a conference that does have boys volleyball," Wick said.
Conference realignment created the opportunity for one of the area's newest programs to get started. The Orioles, one of a growing number of area teams that have added the sport, will join Homestead, Nicolet, Whitefish Bay and Cedarburg in the North Shore Conference,
While there hasn't been a dramatic change in the participation numbers for the sport statewide, there has been an increase in teams.
Hartford started its varsity program. Dominican, a second-year team, will make its WIAA tournament debut this year. Heritage Christian and Sussex Hamilton, two more schools that didn't offer the sport last year, are on track to field varsity teams in 2018 and '19, respectively.
When you factor in schools like St. Anthony and Oak Creek, which added teams the past few seasons, plus the schools rumored to be considering adding the sport next year, growth for boys volleyball in the area has been robust.
"We're excited to get started, but we're also excited to see that there are some other schools getting their programs going. ...," Wick said. "It's a great sport. It's about time it started gaining some momentum."
The latest group of newbies cropped up for a variety of reasons. Hartford had the help of realignment. In Sussex there has been a growing interest in the sport thanks, in part, to a junior program started a few years ago. Dominican was forced to fend for itself after its co-op with Whitefish Bay ended.
The split turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Knights.
"We know that the North Shore is a hotbed for boys volleyball throughout the years with Nicolet, Whitefish Bay being really competitive," Dominican coach Adrian Lynch said. "There has been a lot of hype around the sports with boys."
What Lynch found at Dominican is a lot of interest. Three of the middle schools that feed into the high school offer boys volleyball. The plan last season was to have only a varsity team, but after 25 players came out for the team the school added a junior varsity squad. This year the program's 16 players are split equally between the two teams.
The ability of a program to sustain its participation numbers can be a challenge. Heritage Christian had a program for much of the previous decade. For seven years, however, the program had been dormant due to lack of interest.
Then this spring the situation changed.
The school surveyed its students and found enough interest to restart the program. Coach Al Clementi has 10 players and hopes to add a couple more when school begins.
"Some of the more rewarding things and some of the things I emphasize is that they're going to come together as a team and encourage one another," Clementi said. "They're having fun, which I think is really important. Otherwise why bother?"
Playing an abbreviated schedule as an independent, Dominican went 7-4 last year and surprised some teams with its level of play. Many of those players had years of experience playing with Whitefish Bay.
Hartford, in comparison, is starting closer to scratch. Wick's early practices have focused on teaching the players the basics and getting them to understand the game's concepts.
There are four players on varsity with club experience, part of a group that will make history when it takes the floor Wednesday at home against Sussex Hamilton for the school's first game.
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