NIWOT — Long before Niwot boys volleyball was ever conceptualized, the team had talent brewing behind the scenes within the district.
This year, it all came together for the St. Vrain Valley School District’s pilot program. In the first few months of the team’s existence, Cougars near and far have learned how to start from ground zero to put together a promising start.
Following a home sweep against Severance on Tuesday night — with set scores of 25-11, 25-18 and 25-20 — the Cougars improved to 4-4 through the early portion of their spring slate.
“There’s like eight different schools, I think, that joined up,” junior right-side hitter and Erie student Sage Xiong said. “We had like 52 guys try out, so I knew that we were going to have a decent team. … I feel like, as of right now, we’ve gotten a lot better.”
Xiong serves as one of many Cougars who bring prior experience — club or otherwise — to the court, but senior middle blocker Kaiden Box entered the sport as a rookie among veterans. The Skyline quarterback, who’s committed to play football at the University of Northern Colorado in the years to come, wanted to try out something new as part of his high school swan song.
His friend and teammate, senior outside hitter Erik West, convinced him to come along for the volleyball ride.
“I was trying to just find a sport to play in the spring. Baseball is boring, and I’m not good at track,” Box said. “It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m definitely learning a lot from the people who have actually played and the kids who have played club their whole life. It’s really nice, because they’ve all been super supportive.”
Together, the Cougars comprise a team brimming with athleticism as they figure out how to work together under the same banner. Box utilized his strong throwing arm to attack the Silver Knights from the front line as Xiong provided needed boosts from all over the floor.
Xiong’s serving elevated Niwot’s game play at crucial periods throughout the match to help his Cougars ignite a few runs that Severance couldn’t recover from.
A few days earlier, the Cougars provided a window into how good they can really be once they nail down the fundamentals and build upon their strong base of team chemistry. The squad traveled south to compete in a small tournament and, despite falling in a two-set sweep to third-ranked Legend, made the Titans sweat.
They almost took the second set to extra points before falling 25-22. Head coach John Miller has reveled in his team’s quick rise in such a short time, and hopes they can achieve even more as the season wears on.
They’ll return home on Thursday night to host the Poudre School District.
“We went from the beginning of February — when we started tryouts and practicing, they didn’t even know each other — to, now, they’re best buddies on the court and best buddies off the court,” Miller said. “It’s really made a huge difference in our successes so far, how quickly they’ve all been able to bond together.”