BEAVERCREEK — Through a long season, against the best teams in the state and despite numerous injuries to its roster, the Beavercreek High School boys volleyball team earned its sixth trip to the state tournament in school history, and its third in the Final Four.
Head coach Carol Bysak says the team got there this past season because of its work ethic, and willingness to work together no matter who was in the lineup.
“Team probably worked the best together, and a lot of them really stepped up this year,” the 14-year coach said. “We were really plagued with injuries throughout the season, and kids stepped into roles they weren’t used to, or they were in a role they were used to but really stepped up.
“When our two key players were injured, you didn’t see a drop in the win-losses. The kids really did a great job in working together, and it was nice to be able to have such a deep bench.”
Bysak said Parker Mikesch, a Division I First Team All Ohio selection by the Ohio Boys Scholastic Volleyball Coaches Association this season, West Region first team pick and West Region Player of the Year; along with senior Michael Abbitt, a second team West Regional choice, were those two main cogs in the Beavers lineup this season.
Mikesch has signed to play collegiate soccer at NCAA powerhouse Ohio State.
Abbitt, the team’s solid hitting lefty rightside hitter, plans to attend the University of Cincinnati as a Business Major.
The Beavers will lose their services, as well as the talents of fellow recent graduates Riley Bell (Second Team West Region), London Shumake, Ben Page and Luis Ramirez Rosado.
There simply was no drop in the level of talent on the court whenever Bysak would go to her bench, however.
“No, that’s not the case for us. Not at all,” she said. “I had two sophomores in my starting lineup (outside hitter Simon Ricks and setter Jared Brown) and a junior (Naumann Hussain). … Those two sophomores, you need to keep your eye on, because they’re going to be verrrrry good!”
Maybe if the Beavers played a tougher schedule, they could become even better!
Few teams will play as tough a schedule as Beavercreek had played this past season. In the final Ohio High School Boys Volleyball Association state polls, 15 of the team’s games were played against 11 of the 14 teams ranked in the Division I top 10 season rankings. They also played four of the state’s best teams in Division II, and defeated eventual D-II state champion Columbus St. Charles.
Beavercreek finished with a 12-7 record against teams ranked among the state’s top 10, and had a 21-7 overall record.
The team’s losses read like a Who’s Who of Ohio high school boys volleyball: Two losses to D-I state No. 1 Moeller; they split a pair of games with D-I state semifinalist Northmont; lost to Division II regular season No. 1 and state tourney runner up Alter; and lost matches to D-I nos. 2 (St. Xavier), 3. (Elder) and 4. (Olentangy) along the way.
So come state tournament time, the Beavers were ready.
“In the state quarterfinals, we played Jackson out of Massillon, and we’d never played them before. They were a good team. We had to shift gifts against them,” Bysak said. “We have a lot of talented jump servers, and Jackson was good at receiving those. So we switched gears and served up to float serves to them, and they had difficulty returning those.”
A float serve is similar to a knuckleball in baseball, where the ball doesn’t rotate. That lack of a spin enables the ball to duck and weave a bit, which makes it difficult to return.
Beavercreek defeated Jackson in the state quarters, 28-26, 25-16, 25-22.
After losing in three sets during the team’s regular season meeting against top-ranked Moeller, the Beavers got another chance at the Crusaders in the state semis. While they may have surprised Moeller with narrow two-point loss in the opening set and a win Beavercreek win in the second, the regular season No. 1 and tournament top seed rallied to a 27-25, 23-25, 25-18, 25-14 win.
“They were very good at receiving and hitting everything back. We were passing well, we were setting well, we were hitting well. But they just kept getting everything up. … For some of our seniors, that was their third and fourth times at state. We knew what we were getting into. We knew we had to play tough. We just came up a little bit short,” Bysak said.
The Beavers team played tough in the classroom, too.
Beavercreek was one of 31 teams, including neighboring rival Carroll, to receive Ohio All-Academic honors this season. Thirteen players were individually recognized, and the Beavers recorded a team grade-point average for the entire season of 4.093.