Nashville, Tennessee’s C2 Attack 14 Rox boys coach David Hurst likes to refer to his team as “The Beach Boys.”
“Beach volleyball is the reason the team exists,” he said. “We originated from beach volleyball players that did not have enough local teammates to compete indoors.”
But when they’ve gone indoors, they’ve done really well.
Hurst noted that two players from the C2 beach program, Tate Colebaugh and Gavin Blanchette, were at the USA Volleyball High Performance beach championships, while Thomas Hurst and Joshua Garcia were competing in the program on different teams.
“The parents discussed how each boy would really enjoy one more year of fun on the lower nets at 14s instead of playing up on the 15s or 18s teams that seemed to be the only options available,” he explained.
Hurst and Garcia, both Texas natives, ended up making the road trip from Dallas and Austin and the team found yet another beach player, Jeffrey Cox, to join the team.
Fast forward to the St. Louis Dennis Lafata Gateway Classic earlier this season.
“We breezed to the finals of the St. Louis bid tournament before never practicing caught up our small team of seven all-around beach volleyball players against a solid HPSTL team in the finals,” Hurst said.
Hurst explained HPSTL ran a high-speed switching offense and his crew had never had to deal with that type of team blocking scenario in the sand.
Still, Hurst was bursting with pride over what his team accomplished.
“Ask yourself, when was the last time a boys team you never heard of shows up to its first bid tournament and walks into the finals by defeating all four open-bound teams in the gold pool?” he said. “These seven beach players averaged 25-17 in the 14 (set) wins and have the starting lineup that has not yet practiced once with the team.
“If you see them play you can tell beach volleyball was an enormous influence on their success and it is helping them maintain a calm, cool and crisp level of play with great team ball control.”
C2 ended up 7-1 overall in the tournament.
Hurst noted C2 has rocketed to the top echelon of the AES boys’ volleyball rankings.
“Go look at the boys’ volleyball history for the central United States and you can see why this can be considered a miracle,” he said. “No team I can remember in the last few years has ever breached the top 10 from the 20-plus states without high-school boys’ volleyball. A few long-running programs such as HVA, A5 and Fury have reached into the teens occasionally but the more common finishes are closer to 30th in Open divisions.”
Hurst also talked about the willingness of players to travel in order to pursue the sport at the higher levels.
“There is a recent history of volleyball players from Dallas loving volleyball so much they had to leave to find appropriate-level club teams and transplant to high schools with teams,” he said. “Pac Rim and HPSTL have hosted recent transplants out of state and four Dallas boys are playing in Texas with two on Houston HVA 18s and two on Austin AJV 18s.
“The point is some of us face incredible challenges out here in the volleyball wasteland where boys may have to travel three to six hours to meet up with a partner and find two opponents just to have a beach volleyball match.”
C2 recently played in Atlanta.
“That is a four-hour road trip for a home region event that is in their Southern region,” Hurst said. “C2 14 plays no events this year in Nashville because there are no other teams nearby.”
Some of the C2 players will be in Gulf Shores, Alabama, next month at the HP beach tryouts and will be playing in the Gulf Fest 16 boys division.
“There likely will not be enough for a 14s boys beach division,” Hurst pointed out. “All the elite 14s boys indoor teams have some top beach players on them so I think there is a bigger theme about why more boys should be learning via beach to grow the sport and improve the quality of the indoor boys game.”
Venturing south: The Forest City Green 18U Canadian boys team out of London, Ontario, came up big at the recent 2018 Boys Atlantic Northeastern bid tournament in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Forest City, under the direction of coach Dave Phoenix, won the 18 open title, besting Niagara Frontier 18 Gold in the Harrisburg final.
“We have an excellent group of young men,” Phoenix said. “We have seven boys on the team who have been with us since I started with them. It’s been a steady progression for them. These are the type of kids I look for who have that long-term thinking instead of that instant gratification, magic pill type of thing. All the work they have been putting in is starting to pay off now.”
Phoenix liked what he saw in Harrisburg.
“The boys had a nice event,” he said. “That really was our first big win as a team. We had won minor tournaments before, but nothing at this level. We have had decent success in the Premier division in Ontario.”
Phoenix noted the team ran into a familiar foe in the Gold semifinals in Harrisburg.
“The Ottawa Mavericks are ranked second in Ontario. We had lost to them two times. It was nice to get that margin against them. It gave the boys even more confidence.”
What was Forest City’s recipe for success at BANE?
“Our defense led the way for us,” the coach noted. “We were able to adjust to what other teams were doing and we were fairly successful with that. We also excelled in out-of-system situations. We also worked to get quality opportunities in running our offense when we were out of system.”
Phoenix also liked his team’s decision-making in pressure situations.
“I liked that the guys were aggressively smart with their opportunities out there,” he said. “They went hard. And when it was not there, they made the smart shots and the smart decisions.”
Forest City received contributions from many sources, including outside hitter Evan Falardeau.
“He’s an outstanding you man who stepped up his play,” said Phoenix. “He was fabulous. I thought most teams didn’t have an answer for him.”
Middle Kaelan Kloetstra was a blocking force for Forest City.
“He’s an undersized middle who is fast and very smart,” said Phoenix.
Harrisburg marked the midpoint in Forest City’s season. High school boys volleyball is contested in the fall in Canada.
At the time, Forest City was gearing up for a Grand Prix event that features the top eight teams in the province. The provincial championships are slated for this month and Canadian nationals are slated for May on the West Coast of the country.
“We’re moving in the right direction at the right time,” said Phoenix
Phoenix said Forest City likely will not use its bid at junior nationals this summer. “Our season starts early and ends in May,” he said. “We play a long season.
Atlanta success: The A5 boys program has enjoyed a strong season thus far. Carlos Soler is the head coach of the 16-1s team, while boys director Kip Buss coaches the 14-1s team for the Alpharetta, Georgia-based club.
“The 14-1s team has been making huge leaps and bounds with the players it has and what they’ve been able to accomplish this season,” Soler said. “The talent and potential for the team has only continued to improve. They have had great success in tournaments dwon south.”
The 14-1s team earned its nationals bid by taking second at 14U at Florida Fest in Jacksonville. “In a state where the only access to boys volleyball is a few high-school clubs and only a couple boys clubs, we’ve managed to slowly start building to create more of a presence for the sport throughout the state,” said Soler.
Soler noted he’s also working with the MotorMVB initiative to grow the game and to make it a varsity high-school sport in the team.
Soler’s 16-1s team also has enjoyed success.
“We’ve managed to do quite well thus far with two middles out this season with injuries, no liberos or options for substitutions because we’ve been traveling with six players.”
A5 16-1 took first in the Bronze bracket in 16 Open at the Dennis Lafata Gateway Classic in St. Louis.
A5 will play in another bid tournament in Richmond, Virginia in May. “Our sights on earning a bid to play in 16 Open this summer,” said Soler.
Longer-term, Soler wants to keep spreading the word about boys volleyball in Georgia and beyond.
“As we are trying to generate more buzz for this incredible sport in our state, we have been able to produce quality teams in a region with virtually no established boys volleyball.”