Written by Caroline Ro
This spring, Gunn introduced its first ever boys volleyball team, coming a few years after the sport’s addition to the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League (SCVAL).
Some of the varsity boys volleyball athletes believe that the addition of a boys team reflects the gradually changing female-dominated nature of the sport. “Boys volleyball is making its way into the sports world,” varsity player freshman Joseph Safa said.
Boys volleyball teams, however, have existed at neighboring high schools and as a club sport for years, allowing many of the athletes to support other teams and compete outside of school. “Growing up, other high schools had boys volleyball teams as well, and [it was] always cool to root them on,” varsity player senior Daniel Kachenko said. Gunn and Palo Alto High School are actually the last two schools in the SCVAL to add boys volleyball teams to their sports programs.
The few key differences between girls and boys volleyball have to do with net height and the team’s approach to the sport. While the standard net height for high school boys is 2.43 meters, the girls net height is slightly lower at 2.24 meters. This difference causes a boys volleyball game to be slightly more focused on hitting the ball harder to get it over the net, while girls volleyball places more emphasis on positioning and strategy. “That’s not to say that guys aren’t the cerebral type, but they really just want to hit it hard where girls want to place the ball and play more of a cerebral volleyball,” boys volleyball coach Matt Brostch said.
Despite the variations that make boys volleyball more of a physical endeavor than a mental one, Kachenko believes that the psychological aspect of boys volleyball is crucial and not to be underestimated. “Half of volleyball is just getting in the right place and moving your feet to the right position, and I think [it’s] amazing how even though my skill set isn’t as good as [the other players], I can still contribute greatly by just getting in the right place at the right time,” Kachenko said. “I tried out for the team with zero professional volleyball experience, and it’s incredible how much positioning it takes.”
As this is the first boys volleyball team at Gunn, Brostsch and his team have had little to work with in terms of equipment and uniforms, which posed some administrative challenges. Volleyball nets, for example, had to be newly ordered as the existing ones were old and in poor condition. A few weeks into the season, new uniforms had to be ordered as well. “There are some challenges that come with just getting a program off the ground to begin with,” Brotsch said.
Due to overlaps with the girls and boys basketball practices in February, the team also had to juggle with inconvenient practice times, sometimes playing from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. or before school. “February’s the crazy month, and that’s the same way out on the field,” Gunn Athletic Director Curt Johansen said.
The players, however, seem to have made up for these minor drawbacks with their skill. Safa, for example, has played for the Academy Volleyball Club Team for three years. Kachenko has also spent years cultivating his volleyball skills as a hobby, playing beach volleyball during frequent family trips to Cancun, Mexico, enabling him to hone his abilities as a player.
Because many of the varsity team members have had experience playing on club teams, the players have high hopes for their first season. “Our big goal is to win SCVAL and NorCal division.” Kachenko said.
Likewise, Brotsch has also seen promising levels of individual skill and teamwork emerging so far in their practices, indicating a promising and groundbreaking season to come. “There’s a lot of talent here so it’s just a matter of getting them to play together and we’ll have two teams—both [varsity and junior varsity]—and I think both will be competitive,” Brostch said.