Gibault Catholic High School is adding boys volleyball as a sport this spring, easing into the action with a junior varsity team.
Heather Ebert, who has coached girls volleyball at Gibault for five seasons and led them to a state tournament appearance, has long been lobbying for a boys team. The school decided now was the right time to implement the program.
Ebert comes from St. Louis and has a long volleyball history. She played for Notre Dame High School. Ebert also coached and watched her brothers play volleyball when she was growing up.
Boys volleyball is a common sport in many of the St. Louis schools.
Heather’s cousin, Scott Touzinski, played for the U.S. men’s team that medaled at the Beijing Olympics and now plays professionally in Germany.
Volleyball has been a big part of Ebert’s life as long as she can remember.
“Volleyball is in my blood. I have always coached and played some,” she said. “Every year, I pushed to get the boys program going here and this year the school decided there was enough interest.”
All of the bigger schools in the area field boys volleyball teams — Belleville East and West, O’Fallon, Edwardsville, Granite City and Althoff — but it will be a new sport to this area.
There are only 217 schools in Illinois that have a boys program, so unlike other sports that are broken up by classes, boys volleyball plays under one class.
“The number of schools grows every year,” Ebert said. “So I’m hoping real soon there will be a class for big schools and a class for small schools. It’s not fair for us to compete against schools from Chicago. They are a volleyball hub up there.”
Since this is the first year for boys volleyball at Gibault and the whole team is made up of freshman and sophomores, they will play a freshman and junior varsity schedule.
“I’m hoping in a couple of years as the program grows, we will be able to field a varsity level team and enter the state tournament,” Ebert said. “With this being the first year, we are going to take things slowly.
Even though it is a new sport at Gibault, Ebert has some boys on the team who already know volleyball and have been around the sport.
Aaron Grohmann has grown up watching volleyball. His sister plays for Gibault. Joey Green is a team manager for the Gibault girls squad.
Jay Hollman has the most playing experience. He has been playing club volleyball for several years.
“These three boys have been around volleyball and know what’s going on and how the sport works,” Ebert said. “The rest of the boys are just really eager to learn and improve and that’s all I can ask for as a coach.”
Ebert is not sure what to expect with the new program starting up, but she has been very pleased with how it is going.
“I have seen a lot of commitment and hard work from the boys so far,” she said. “They ask what kind of things they can do on their own to get better. I think we are going to see a lot of growth with them.”
The Hawks’ first game will be Tuesday, March 24 at home against Belleville West. Thursday, March 26, they will host Granite City. Game time for both contests is set for 5 p.m.