Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Scott Larkin's alma mater
Daric Sanders isn’t only hoping to play college volleyball, he plans on it. It’s why whenever there’s a chance to play, whether it’s on the sand or indoors, he does. He estimates he has spent more time in a gym than in his home.
It’s why he is going to California later this summer to attend volleyball camps, including one at Pepperdine.
“There’s a lot of colleges who look at that camp,” said Sanders, who will be a senior at Maize this fall. “I’m going to try to get picked up by a (junior college) out there and then get noticed by a big school, hopefully Division I.
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“I’m definitely going to be playing college volleyball.”
But simply finding other high school-age boys volleyball players isn’t easy. Boys volleyball is not a high school sport in Kansas.
While Sanders’ club team — which includes Austin Larkin, who just graduated from Carroll, and Jake Ewart, a soon-to-be junior at East — qualified for nationals, they aren’t going.
“There’s not enough guys who play volleyball in the state of Kansas,” said Sanders, who likely will be a libero in college. “There’s just a small handful of guys who play.”
Larkin said his club team, which included Kansas City-area players, practiced at Wichita State once a week.
Since there’s so few players in the Wichita area, in order to play in tournaments, traveling’s a must. Dallas, St. Louis and Chicago are hot spots for boys volleyball, and at times there’s a tourney in Kansas City.
“It’s very difficult to get guys who want to try it and give it a shot and play,” Larkin said. “Sometimes it’s hard, but you’ve got to do what you love to do.”
The difficulty of finding someone to play doesn’t stop the diehards, mostly because they’ve known the sport the majority of their lives.
Sanders is the son of Jeff Sanders, an assistant volleyball coach at Wichita State. Jeff picked up the game because his dad and grandfather played.
Larkin’s dad, Scott, is a former Northwest coach who played at Brigham Young and professionally overseas.
Ewart got into the sport because his dad coached the club team of his sister, Hanna, who played at East.
Then there’s Stefan and Isaac Anthemides, whose dad Stephano is the Dodge City Community College women’s coach. He coached the Wichita State men’s club team from 1988-97. Isaac and Stefan play on a 14-year-old juniors team, and they advanced to nationals.
Stephano Anthemides drove to North Carolina so Isaac could try out for the U.S. youth national team.
“We try to promote (volleyball) as much as we can,” Anthemides said. “We’ve been trying for 30 years, trying to get it into the high schools, even as a club. It’s almost impossible.”
While Sanders, Larkin and the Anthemides boys grew up around volleyball, Ewart, a setter, didn’t pick it up until he was in sixth grade. It didn’t take long to get sucked into the sport.
“I like the pace of it,” said Ewart, who also plays baseball. “It’s pretty quick. There’s not a lot of standing around, and there’s a lot of movement.”
Larkin had planned to play college volleyball, even quitting basketball his junior season to focus on improving as a volleyball player. He returned to basketball his senior season, and that’s the sport he’ll play at Hesston College.
While it’s not easy to find competition, there are ways to get the oh-so-important touches.
“It’s pretty hard to get a game going of all boys,” Jeff Sanders said. “You might be at a girls club practice or a manager of the girls team and hit balls in the drill, serve for the coach. So you’re working on handling of the ball and controlling the ball.”
Sometimes they have to work out on their own. Or with one another.
“ The only thing I can really do is get reps, try and get better through training,” Daric Sanders said. “I am at a disadvantage when I go to camp because I’ve been playing with girls. The difference between girls and guys volleyball is totally different. But I’m used to it. It does suck, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”