Boys' Volleyball: Farmington has successful inaugural season
History was made this past spring when Farmington High School welcomed boys' volleyball as a non-MSHSL sponsored sport. It was an instant success for the Tigers as they saw good numbers and great results under coaches A.J. Dubek and Ann Wilcek. A varsity and junior varsity team was formed with each team playing around 20 games against fellow South Suburban Conference and metro schools.
The teams belong to the Minnesota Boys' High School Volleyball Association, which started in the fall of 2017 and quickly gained momentum to start a spring 2018 season. A total of 22 schools featuring 38 varsity and junior varsity teams competed across the state according to the organization's website.
Dubek said that Bill Tschida (the athletics, activities and facilities director) first approached him about coaching the team in the winter as he knew Dubek had played men's club volleyball at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and he was soon joined by Troy Hedtke and Sandy Hand (they also run the Farmington Girls JO volleyball program) who helped take over the program and handle logistics, etc. Dubek also recruited Ann Wilcek as a coach as she had played in college, her son Brandon played club volleyball and Dubek had coached Brandon with Wilcek's husband.
"I was very excited and honored to have the opportunity to be part of the inaugural Farmington boys volleyball program," Wilcek said. "We had been driving Brandon to Bloomington for the last two years to play volleyball so it was exciting to have an opportunity for him to play locally and be part of the Farmington program."
They then held tryouts and had such a great turnout they had to make cuts.
"Tryouts were very interesting, we had numbers in the mid-20's, and ended up making cuts," Dubek said. "Troy, Sandy, Mike Woody (the girls varsity volleyball coach), along with others from the girls' JO board helped with the evaluations. The guys were very interested in the fundamentals and wanted to get better each rep they took. I thought it would be tough with the lack of volleyball skills the majority of them had but the amount they grew each night at tryouts really helped."
Dubek said that the immediate focus was on fundamentals and just plain learning the game (serving, returning serves, where to be on the court, rules, etc).
"I wanted the guys to be able to consistently serve over the net, be confident, and have fun," he said.
"Coaching is focused this year on the basics for all skills like passing, setting, serving, blocking, etc," Wilcek said. "It has been interesting to observe that most boys are focused on power versus placement. So it is a continual teaching that power is only useful when it results in a point for our team versus an error."
Dubek also said that the players surprised him with how they approached the game.
"What I was more surprised with was the natural passing platform some of them had even though they had never played," he said. "I was very surprised how eager they were to learn the game, Troy and I both had the same thoughts—when we were in high school we thought we knew everything about the sport from just playing in gym class—and that is not the case with these guys."
The team's goals for the season were to have fun, learn the game and be competitive, according to Dubek and Wilcek. Dubek coached the varsity and Wilcek the junior varsity. The varsity went 8-11 in 19 games played, which was good for ninth among the varsity teams. The junior varsity had a tremendous season taking fourth among the JV teams with a 13-7 record.
Looking ahead to the future, Dubek said that while there were a high number of seniors who went out, there were plenty of underclassmen out including some who saw varsity time.
"It will all depend on what kids are playing AAU basketball, baseball, or doing track," he said. "I don't think kids were aware of how competitive/fun it was going to be. I think with home matches and crowd sizes we got there will be more interest in the future."
This past spring's team consisted of: Mason Mortimer, Brandon Wilcek, Caden Freetly, Collin Hansen, Stephen Hansman, Zachary Hedquist, Canter Huschka, Mitchell Krei, Ryan Shirley, Nick Shirley, Parker Daly, Joshua Buch, Nathan Cline, Nate Demaree, Jacob Grundman, Nick Hawkins, Jay Laramy, Joe McConnell, Nick St Mary and Matt Streitz.
The goal of the Minnesota Boys' High School Volleyball Association is for boys' volleyball to become a MSHSL-sanctioned sport throughout the state in the future.