BRUNSWICK — After a 13-year absence, boys volleyball is back at Brunswick.
Under the direction of coach Gary Ostkar, a senior at Brecksville the last time the Blue Devils had a team, the club program is fielding varsity and junior varsity squads consisting of a total of 24 players.
Brunswick’s roster includes a black belt in karate to players with backgrounds in football, soccer and wrestling.
Not too shabby of a turnout for a team put together by Ostkar and club director Maria Suboyu. Neither knew what to expect when open gyms started in late October.
“I wasn’t sure how many kids were going to show up for the first open gym, but after we had over 20 kids, my heart fell,” said Suboyu, whose son Nick is an outside hitter for the team. “The word really got out. I would’ve been crushed if only three people showed up.”
Brunswick, a regional powerhouse from 1989-99, will compete in the Ohio High School Boys Volleyball Association’s North Region.
The self-sufficient club has covered transportation and equipment and scheduled practice time at the Brunswick Community Recreation Center and Visintainer Middle School. It is also handling insurance for participants.
Players also had to put in the time to learn the sport.
“It was gym-class volleyball,” said Ostkar, a Broadview Heights resident. “They’re working hard and starting to see things quicker. They’re starting to learn that they have to be technicians on the court and can’t just wind up and hit the ball.”
While the Devils dropped their season opener to Hoban on Tuesday in four games, the team is progressing.
“We’ve come a long way,” senior setter Brad Darlington said. “From the first open gym where we looked bad, I think we’re a good team with a lot of talent.”
Darlington is one of three captains, joining the outside hitting tandem of Suboyu and senior Jack Ellis.
To prepare for the season, Suboyu spent a couple months playing in a volleyball league in Twinsburg.
“We’ve been working really, really hard,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of practice and touches on the ball and I’m really proud of the team. We picked it up really fast and realized that it’s not just gym class.”
The team also got an opportunity to take in a recent Ohio State men’s game along with going into the locker room afterward to hear from the players.
Darlington, who played on the school’s football team, wasn’t sure what to expect when he signed up to play.
“I was really surprised,” he said. “There are a lot of people that think volleyball is just a girls sport, but I beg to differ. At Ohio State, we got to see these guys that have dedicated their whole lives to the sport and the results of it.”
Maria Suboyu, meanwhile, is honored to do all the behind-the scenes things.
“I’m proud to be a Brunswick resident,” she said. “It was a lot of work getting this new team up and running, but I’m truly appreciative and proud of the help from the city and the school.
“When I see 24 boys who would have had nothing to do this spring walk into the gym with such a sense of belonging and excitement, every bit of the work was well worth it.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.