Boys Volleyball Set to Make Varsity Debut This Season

Junior Matty Cummings, senior Sam Blake, and senior Jack Salem are the captains of the first season of boys varisty volleyball.

March 28, 2024 – Story and photos by Joshua Ross

What started out as an idea during a driver’s ed lesson a few years back, has become a reality for coach Shawn Nugent and senior captain Sam Blake.  

Nugent, a former high school volleyball player, is a teacher and driver’s ed instructor at the high school.  During one of their driving lessons, Blake expressed interest in starting a boys volleyball program at the school.  They formed a club sport, recruiting other players and after two years, will take the court next week as a full-fledged varsity sport. 

Interest was high with an initial group of kids, which gave Nugent hope to build a program that would become an MIAA varsity sport.

“The first year we had 22 kids,” Nugent explained. “It was really good numbers.  We had some really good seniors that came out and added a lot of energy.  That was a big part that got us off the ground. Having around four solid seniors who were athletic, nice, good with kids, it took whatever we were doing and took it to another level to really get out of the gate strong.”

Building a team from the ground up involved more than just teaching X’s and O’s on the court.  It was about education, building confidence, and cultivating a team atmosphere.  That first year’s schedule was mostly JV opponents to get the boys used to playing.  Nugent also took them to college matches and encouraged them to play in camps and clinics to improve their skills. 

Senior Charlie Taylor gets some setting drills in during the preseason.

Last year saw a small step back with the loss of the senior leadership.  More focus was on practice than matches, but the matches they did participate in were against teams in similar situations looking to make the jump to a varsity sport. The team had somewhat surprising success against teams like Milton and Scituate and gave Nugent and the rest of the guys the validation that they were ready to make the jump.  

The initial goal wasn’t to make it into a varsity sport, it was to organize and play competitive matches and build interest in a new sport among dozens of other well-known, highly successful programs at the high school.

“It started off by playing in gym class,” recalls Blake. “It was the unit we were doing and all my friends were in the class and we kind of fell in love with the sport instantly. We played every day that we could.  We would stay after and hit balls, even when we weren’t supposed to. We decided one day at lunch that this could be the year that could make it a club sport. Everyone brought it to life, everyone contributed to make it happen to turn it into a varsity sport. It wasn’t a goal to turn it into a varsity sport.  It turned into that after we saw the potential we had.”

Nugent is under no illusions that making the jump will be easy the first year.  With 14 individual matches scheduled and three weekend tournaments, he expects there will be a few rough patches along the way.

“For us, it’s just used to being a varsity program, playing varsity teams,” said Nugent. “Going from what would be gym volleyball to going to positions and rotations.  There are going to be moments where it is going to be a learning curve for us.  These kids never had a JV season, where they would get to learn the game.  They are getting thrown right into it.  But we were mindful when making the schedule.”

Junior captain Matty Cummings, who plays on two other established, successful high school teams, thinks there is an opportunity in building a program from scratch.

Senior Calvin Smock gets ready to start the season.

“We’ve seen over the past few years people coming in from other sports after practice and hit the ball while we are practicing and end up falling in love with the sport,” described Cummings. “I think what we can do is really show people you can have the same love of the sport as they do in gym class, but in a much more competitive way.  I think if people realize that boys volleyball is actually a fun sport when you play it intensely, I think it’s something we can do to get a competitive advantage and get people to join and get more people on board.”

It’s not lost on Nugent that the program is at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting players, but is looking to change, not only in Hingham, but around the whole South Shore.

“I want to get down to the middle school and want to make this game more known there,” Nugent goes on to say. “One of the other things that makes volleyball a little more challenging is that in Massachusetts, it’s in a season that’s not where most of the country is.  It’s usually in the fall and most club teams are playing now.  The other thing is the number of sports. There are so many other sports that are happening in the springtime.  So I feel like in Massachusetts in general, boys volleyball is a little underdeveloped.  But it’s gaining momentum down here and making its way down the South Shore.  Scituate made it.  Looks like Silver Lake is going to make it.  So one of our goals is to also help this region grow.  Our responsibility is to our boys, but the better the region gets, the better we get.”

The boys will kick off their inaugural season in Taunton on Monday and host their first-ever home match on Wednesday against South Shore Collaborative.  

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