NIWOT — Following about four years worth of logistical planning and numerous setbacks, game action has finally arrived for the inaugural season of Niwot boys volleyball.
The first Colorado High School Activities Association-sanctioned boys varsity volleyball team in the St. Vrain Valley School District won its opening test at Riverdale Ridge on Tuesday and on Thursday, the Cougars opened their home slate with a three-set sweep (25-12, 25-14, 25-19) of Mountain View.
Despite having only one actual Niwot High student on the varsity roster — that being senior Jack Klein — the student section remained packed and in full support of its new team, which includes a concoction of players across SVVSD schools. Building chemistry, however, hasn’t been an issue.
“We’ve built a great community of guys and we’re really close,” Klein said. “We are hanging out all the time, talking and we’re just building a really great team.”
Niwot head coach John Miller, who doubles as an assistant for Silver Creek’s girls volleyball team, has been most impressed by his team’s relentless energy — an energy that has players like Cooper Chudleigh laying out despite his team being up 15 in the third set.
“It’s a fun bunch of guys to work with,” Miller said. “Every time we come out, we get better and better and they keep working hard. It’s a pleasure to coach them.”
In addition to Klein and Chudleigh, Miller has seen senior Kaiden Box, sophomore Jenu Ngialah and junior Sage Xiong step up as leaders.
Niwot athletic director Joe Brown said that Thursday’s home opener was “special” to see the Cougars finally competing against other schools.
“It’s awesome because it is kind of the end of a long road to get here,” Brown said. “All of our teams in St. Vrain had a club team prior to the (COVID-19) pandemic and when the pandemic hit, we shut down club teams and we were able to slowly bring them back.
“The process to actually see it happening now is awesome. There’s a lot of hard work and we’re so thankful for (SVVSD superintendent) Dr. (Don) Haddad to put this forward and (SVVSD athletic director) Chase McBride; what he’s done to help put this together has been awesome.”
The excitement surrounding the program has been known for some time now. Miller said that over 60 students were at tryouts in February, allowing the program to field a junior varsity team, a C team and a “developmental” team.
And while boys volleyball may be fresh at Niwot and in the SVVSD, the Cougars’ early dominance suggests that winning won’t have to wait.
“It’s still early in the season and we still got a lot to work on, still a lot to improve, but I’m feeling very confident about our team,” Klein said. “If we just keep improving every day and getting a little bit better, I think we’ll have a really good season.”
At the same time, Miller and Brown remain mindful of the bigger picture in year one.
“It’s more about building a foundation right now,” Brown said. “For us, winning is always our goal, but not our purpose. Our purpose right now is to build a program that we hope gets wins, but more importantly, gets kids excited about the sport.”
Niwot, now 2-0 in the Northern 1 League, hosts Thornton on Tuesday.
Peak to Peak boys embarking on program’s second season
Also on Thursday, Peak to Peak, the Boulder Valley School District’s lone CHSAA-sanctioned boys volleyball team, began its second season of play at home against Mountain Vista. The result was not available at press time.
In their first campaign last spring, the Pumas enjoyed a good deal of success, finishing 15-8 overall (8-3 Northern League) with wins in five of their final six matches. Last year’s junior varsity head coach Krista Fernandez is now at the varsity helm and she’ll oversee a roster on the short side of experienced.
A few of Fernandez’s JV standouts are back and ready to contribute on the varsity level, though, including juniors Jordan Miller and Luke Taylor, and sophomores Jung-Min Kim and David Pyun. Soo-Min Kim enters the year as Peak to Peak’s lone senior.
The Pumas travel to Riverdale Ridge on Tuesday.