Big doings for Boyle volleyball
Today’s players were toddlers then, but it really wasn’t that long ago that Boyle County decided it would be a good idea to add a volleyball team. And the Boyle girls who will play for the school’s first regional title tonight would surely agree that it was.
It has been a long road since Boyle became the first Advocate-area school to field a volleyball team in the mid 1990s, but now Boyle will be the first local school to play in a regional championship match when the Lady Rebels host Southwestern in the 12th Region Tournament final tonight.
It’s a significant mark on the sport’s growth chart not just for Boyle, but for all the teams in this area that hope to follow in its footsteps. And it’s a noteworthy achievement for a veteran team that has come a long way in the four-year careers of the team’s six seniors.
Those seniors were freshmen on a team that went 6-25 in 2006, when the team was rebuilding after another strong class led the Lady Rebels to their first district title in 2004 and their first trip to the regional semifinals in ’05. They have reached the regional semifinals in each of the three years since, and tonight they’re going where no local team has gone before.
It’s a far cry from the earliest days of Boyle volleyball, when the level of play wasn’t much better than you’d see at a church picnic. The Lady Rebels had to travel far and wide to play their earliest matches, with they closest opponents in Lexington and Versailles, and they lost most of them.
By the end of the 1990s, other area schools were adding teams, and by the early 2000s there were seven local teams. The sport has taken hold, with Boyle, Lincoln County, Garrard County and Casey County having most of the area’s best teams over the years and Mercer County and Harrodsburg also fielding some good teams.
Today’s players might be grandmothers before any of our teams can hold a candle to the nationally known programs in Louisville or even the best teams in northern Kentucky, the state’s other volleyball stronghold.
First, interest in the sport must start growing below the high school level, good middle school programs must be cultivated and players will probably have to hit the road to play for club or travel teams.
But this is a significant milestone — whether the Lady Rebels win or lose tonight — one that shouldn’t go unnoticed either in the halls at Boyle or the area’s small volleyball community. And although Boyle will be the underdog against a Southwestern team that won its first regional title last year and already has that strong middle school program in place, the Lady Rebels have reached a point where they can compete with the regional powers — and may not be far from joining them.