FLOSSMOOR | When Wyatt Patterson decided in roundabout fashion to join the Homewood-Flossmoor boys volleyball team as a freshman, he knew next to nothing about the sport.
Based on two seasons worth of results, he is obviously a fast learner. Patterson, now a junior, said he spent four weeks on the freshman team before being promoted to junior varsity. He then spent another six weeks with the JV before joining the varsity program as a middle hitter before the end of the season.
With a 6-foot-5 body and a 32-inch vertical leap, the basic tools for a solid frontcourt volleyball player were already there. By his sophomore year, coach Brandon Cotter considered Patterson one of the top players on the team.
After seven months of offseason work with the Chicago Volleyball Club, Patterson is set to take his rapidly improving game to the next level and have a breakout season with the Vikings.
"He is an extremely strong player," said Cotter, who believes Patterson will play collegiate volleyball when he is finished at H-F. "He moves very well and is polished. You can see he still has a lot of room for growth."
Last season, Patterson was tops for the Vikings in blocks and kill percentage as a middle hitter, as the team struggled through a seven-win campaign. Patterson said he hopes to improve his passing in an attempt to become a more well-rounded player.
"Last year, I was pretty much under the radar," Patterson said. "This year, I'm hoping to improve my numbers and help my teammates any way I can."
Cotter recalled that during a Vikings win over Lockport last season, it was Patterson's play in the middle that sustained a run that led to the victory.
"One of the things that separated good middle hitters from very good ones is the ability to see the court and see the block," Cotter said. "With Wyatt last year, he'd sometimes swing as hard as he could, but now with a better ability to see the court, he realizes he doesn't necessarily have to do that if he turns his hits the right way."
Before his freshman year, Patterson thought his best shot to a collegiate athletic scholarship would come in basketball, a notion fully supported by his parents.
After a season of being a reserve on the Vikings freshman basketball team, however, Patterson took the advice of classmate and boys volleyball team manager Evelyn Weidman, who suggested he try his hand at volleyball in the spring.
Though his parents at first joked with him of playing a sport he knew very little about, Patterson said they are his biggest supporters and attend nearly every game.
"I just didn't want to go home after school," Patterson said. "I wanted to be involved in something. I didn't think of it as something I would play seriously until they kept moving me up because of my blocking ... and now, I'm playing it non-stop."