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West Jordan Journal

Volleyball season set to begin…for some

Mar 06, 2019 01:57PM ● By Greg James

Copper Hills will participate in the Utah Boys Volleyball Association spring season with the crowning of a state champion in May. (Photo courtesy of Earle Fenstermaker)

By Greg James | gregj@mycityjournals.com 

Interest in boys volleyball is increasing. Copper Hills had more than 30 show up for its initial tryout, and West Jordan had lots of interest but no place to play.

“At this point, we are back and forth with interest from the kids,” West Jordan boys volleyball head coach Jodi O’Farrell said. “We are not allowed to use the facility unless we rent it, and the boys do not have that kind of money to put out for that. We may not be able to have a team”

Jordan School District serves approximately 54,000 students living in the communities of Bluffdale, Copperton, Herriman, Riverton, South Jordan and West Jordan. According to district facility guidelines, space can be made available to charter school clubs to conduct meetings and events, but non-sanctioned sports clubs such as hockey, rugby, rodeo and boys volleyball are subject to rental fees for conditioning, practices and games.

“It is tough that the chess club can use the library, and other clubs, including AAU (youth) teams, use the gym,” O’Farrell said. “My kids can’t afford to pay. Renting a volleyball club is $25 a boy for an hour. The issue is we have a state championship, and we have no space for my boys to practice.” 

The Utah Boys Volleyball Association oversees boys club teams in the state. Boys volleyball is not a Utah High School Activities Association-sanctioned sport. County programs host the competitive high school leagues. The Salt Lake County Sports Office administers the West Jordan teams.

“I think that if the boys attend the high school, it should be available for them,” O’Farrell said. “I understand that sanctioned sports should get priority, but I have seen youth basketball teams in our gym practicing. The association should step in and try to help us out.”

At one point, West Jordan had 70 boys trying out for three teams. Over the past 10 years, boys volleyball participation nationally has increased by nearly 11 percent. In 2018, the National Federation of State High School Associations reported more than 60,000 participants.

Copper Hills had 20 boys try out for two teams. The team practices at Providence Hall High School in Herriman.

“I have coached at Copper Hills for five years,” Grizzlies head coach Earle Fenstermaker said. “I know our club team had more than 100 kids. I started playing when I was younger. My wife played at a high level. I really wish I had played growing up.”

The Grizzlies will have a young team this season, only two seniors, but Fenstermaker said he has some talented kids.

“I had players last year that could have played college,” he said. “I am excited for this season.”

Gavin Hiller is a senior outside hitter. Fenstermaker said it is fun to watch him play. 

Offense in volleyball relies on a strong setter, and sophomore Austin Shepard will fill that role. He stands 6 feet, 5 inches and is left-handed. Landon Ervin will play middle blocker. 

“Landon played basketball at a high level and has decided to stick with volleyball,” Fenstermaker said. “He will be really good. We will play as a team and play a quick offense. We have had some very athletic players. That has generated some buzz around our team.”

Tyler Hammond graduated from Copper Hills last June and currently plays club volleyball at Utah Valley University.

The UBVA runs February through May and culminates with a high school boys state championship. 

“These boys have a lot of passion for the sport,” O’Farrell said. "They work at it really hard. I feel it is a shame that they are not allowed to use the gymnasium. Hopefully, we can get some help and figure it out so these boys have a place.”