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Ryle among high schools playing boys volleyball one year before it becomes state-sanctioned sport


By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

John Heater had mixed feelings when he heard the Kentucky High School Athletic Association will begin offering a sanctioned state tournament for boys high school volleyball teams in the spring of 2025.

Two years ago, Heater helped establish a boys volleyball club team at Ryle High School that has been playing matches against other high school club teams in the state with the Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association providing guidance and an affordable insurance option for the fledgling programs.

Ryle boys volleyball coach Meredith Heater and her son John, a senior on the team. (Photo provided)

But Heater is now a senior and he won’t be around when the Ryle boys team competes in the first season as an official high school sport next year.

“It was a complete surprise because I didn’t think it was going to be this soon,” Heater said of the KHSAA decision to sanction boys volleyball in 2025. “Even though I’m not going to be with them, I’m super hyped for the guys behind me because it’s just going to keep growing and I’m glad that I kind of played a part in starting that.”

In a few weeks, the Ryle boys club team will begin practice for the upcoming spring season with John’s mom, Meredith, as the new head coach. She was one of the parents who helped get the team started and served as an assistant coach the last two years.

Meredith played and coached women’s collegiate volleyball before joining the staff at Cincinnati Attack, a boys volleyball club where her son started playing the sport years ago. John is the most experienced player on the Ryle roster and will be playing both hitter and setter for the Raiders this spring.

“We’ve got about four or five club players now and some one to fill every position so that rounds everything out,” John said. “It’s just that the level of skill among all those players is very different.”

Coach Hester expects to have between 25 and 30 boys in grades 9-12 on this year’s roster. Many of them had never played on an actual volleyball team before they came to high school and decided to give it a try.

Players and coaches on the last year’s Ryle boys volleyball club team that played in an unsanctioned state tournament last year. (Photo provided)

“Some only played in PE (physical education) classes or at family events and then others have been around it their whole lives because their moms played and their sisters played, so it’s kind of exciting to bring that all together,” she said.

Ryle’s two assistant coaches are Heather Kidd and Kylie Gilmore, who also has a son on the team. Both women coach boys teams for the Northern Kentucky Volleyball Club that had the foresight to provide training for boys looking to play the sport on the high school level.

According to the Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association website, Calvary Christian, Dayton, Holy Cross, Ryle and Walton-Verona are among more than 30 Kentucky high schools that will have boys club teams playing matches this spring. The association sponsored a 12-team boys state tournament last year and expects to do it again in May with a much bigger field. 

Ryle was the only local club team in last year’s boys state tournament and coach Heater said the Raiders to be among the competitors once again.

“We started two years ago and had a wide range of kids, most of whom needed a lot of fundamental training,” she said. “A lot of them have put the time in to learn and get better so now we’ve got a good core group that knows a lot about volleyball. We can just continue to grow and expand their knowledge instead of starting with the basics.”

Thomas More University already has a men’s volleyball program and Northern Kentucky University will add the sport during the 2025-26 school year. That adds another incentive for local high school students interested in the sport.

“They catch on quickly, especially if they’ve played other sports and have some athleticism,” coach Heater said of her team members. “It doesn’t take long for them to really grasp things and make some amazing plays.”

 


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