When Mavrick Tumblin broke his leg two matches into the soccer season, the Chesterton senior figured his prep sports career had come to an inglorious end.
The newly-formed boys volleyball team gave him a chance to don his school colors once again.
"I like being part of a Trojan sport again, actually competing," Tumblin said. "I decided to try out just to get in better shape, and it's never stopped being fun."
Tumblin is among 11 students playing under the direction of coach Craig Cromwell, who assisted girls coach TR Harlan before catching on at Valparaiso University. Cromwell got a positive push to get the ball rolling from Chesterton principal Jim Goetz, a fan of boys volleyball while at Boone Grove.
After a lukewarm initial response, Cromwell scouted intramurals, where he found some interest.
"Kids don't find things out unless you text," he said. "They don't see flyers."
The roster features six seniors, two juniors and three sophomores with varying athletic backgrounds. Junior Andrew Holba, who played this winter for Cromwell on a club team, is one of four boys with any volleyball experience.
"I knew coach, that he was a good guy," Holba said. "It seemed like something fun to do. I really liked it. When I heard we were going to have a school team, I was really excited."
The others, like Tumblin, had only knocked the ball around in the yard, gym class or at the beach.
"Coach makes it exciting in practice," Tumblin said. "Early on, he taught a lot of stuff like good form. Now, we're getting down (to) the nitty-gritty stuff, learning plays. It's coming together pretty well."
The 6-foot-5 Holba has made a big impact, being named an alternate to the junior all-star team. He also plays football and is a thrower in track and field.
"I'm respectful of the other sports and school activities," Cromwell said. "I'm a huge fan of students doing a lot of stuff. You're only in high school once in your life. It's a chance to try something different, a great opportunity for kids who aren't doing anything else or who are looking for a new challenge."
The Trojans stand just 3-10, but Cromwell doesn't gauge their progress based on their record. They picked up two wins at a recent tournament in Indianapolis, where it faced top-ranked Carmel and No. 6 Cathedral, who both play a schedule of over 30 matches.
"All the programs we're playing have been around a long time," Cromwell said. "We've been playing since March 1, two, three times a week. The last month or so, the kids have come along really fast. I wish the seniors were juniors and had another year. The first year, I thought it was more important to have fun, to have the kids spread the word around. They can be the best sales people.""
Cromwell, who coaches his son Kai's team at St. Patrick's, wants to see more venues such as Catholic Youth Organization for boys to play volleyball at a young age. He also hopes other Duneland Athletic Conference schools join in the fun. Right now, just Wheeler and the Porter County Conference schools offer it. Only Hebron and Wheeler play in the spring. Chesterton will face the Bearcats in Friday's regional at Hebron, with the winner taking on the second-ranked Hawks for a state berth. The Bearcats won three prior matchups, though the Trojans got a game off them last time.
"It's pretty exciting for the kids," Cromwell said. "We're getting much closer. It should be a great game."
This column represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.