The decision to add boys' volleyball as a Colorado high school sanctioned sport has been decades in the making.
But while the debate raged on at the Colorado High School Activities Association, one school was building a boys' volleyball dynasty in Colorado Springs.
This weekend The Vanguard School will compete for its fourth straight Colorado 3A state championship - this time with more eyes than ever on the growing sport.
Just two weeks ago, CHSAA approved boys’ volleyball as a sanctioned sport starting the 2020-21 school year, making this year’s state tournament the first of its kind as a pilot program, and a glimpse into what the sport will look like under CHSAA’s umbrella in spring 2021.
Vanguard, which has an enrollment of just 305 according to the latest CHSAA numbers, began a boys’ volleyball club program six years ago. The Coursers made it to the state finals in their second year and won three consecutive after that - including two undefeated seasons.
“For some reason this really tiny school just got really good boys’ volleyball,” said senior Seth Fuqua, who was also the captain of the boys’ basketball team that took second in 3A this year.
But coach Andrew Soeldner implemented a system early that could be responsible for the Coursers’ consistent success.
“I’m an engineer, so I approach things in an analytical way. So I use stats heavily, and film, and every week we go over our body position and how we react to the other team,” Soeldner said. “That kind of analysis and breakdown has really helped. I think they have a good grasp of the game and I think that’s showing now in this crew.”
Of the six players on Vanguard’s varsity roster, five are seniors, and three have been with the team the past four years.
Senior Hayden Frear, who has signed to play Division I men’s volleyball, said he believes it’s a combination of the culture at Vanguard and the athleticism of the team, which has been together for years.
“There’s a lot of support around here, and people want the sport to grow around here so that really helps,” Frear said. “We're also really lucky with who we have. We have some really athletic guys. Three of us play club, so we’re definitely lucky.”
Vanguard heads to state on Saturday at Eaglecrest undefeated, ranked No. 1 in the state and in the top 80 nationally.
The top four teams in 3A are from the Colorado Springs area according to MaxPreps rankings, with James Irwin ranked second at 20-1, followed by District 20 White (22-2) and Cheyenne Mountain White (16-4). St. Mary’s is ranked eighth (15-6).
The Cheyenne Mountain 5A team is ranked second in the classification with its only loss of the year coming against No. 1 Ponderosa, according to MaxPreps.
District 20’s 5A team is ranked fourth in the classification.