Rising above the net: Just finishing its second season as a program, the West Forsyth boys indoor volleyball team has spiked the competition

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 27, 2024

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — The popularity of boys indoor volleyball has exploded in North Carolina, and that’s no different at West Forsyth.

The boys indoor program just started at West Forsyth last year, and in the past two seasons, West Forsyth lost in the state championship last year and it finished 21-2 this past spring.

There’s just one problem. It’s still not a sanctioned sport by the NCHSAA despite its popularity. It’s still sanctioned by the North Carolina Boys Volleyball Association.

Jack Thompson, who was a senior co-captain for the Titans, understands all the hoops a a fledgling program has to go through to ultimately get to its goal. According to Thompson, much of the credit for the birth of the boys indoor program at West Forsyth belongs to Lauren Gillon, the girls volleyball coach there.

“When I had my freshman year (since COVID-19), the women’s head coach, Gillon, she would do girls indoor and also offer beach volleyball,” Thompson said. “So, I kind of started doing beach volleyball and just kind of doing that for freshman and sophomore year. And then when my junior year came around, there was a (kid), who was my setter this year, Liam Shugart, his dad, Patrick Shugart, reached out.

“…We were all kind of clearly wanting to start a guys team because we heard kind of around that a lot of guys that would play in middle-school, public middle-school, like Clemmons Middle, Meadowlark, would play volleyball in middle school and then they would get to high school and there wouldn’t be any sort of guys volleyball.”
For many boys players, there was no option to play in high school. That didn’t stop the people who pioneered the Titans’ program.

“We talked to Gillon and said, ‘Hey, do you think you could try a guys team with us?'” Thompson said. “After a couple of emails back and forth between people and everything, it got all set up, and we had it my junior year and my senior year.”

The team also needed a coach. That’s when Patrick Shugart stepped in. Patrick Shugart, played volleyball in college at James Madison, knew Gillon through club volleyball.

“We’d known each other and tried to get a boys program going is something we had kind of talked about in the past,” Patrick Shugart said. “And really, the last big stumbling block to get over was just having other teams to play against…And that has started falling into place, starting last year, and really across the entire state, there’s been a huge explosion of boys teams.”

Once the team was formed, it needed a coach.

“I was willing to do it, and Coach Gillon was very, very supportive of having a boys team at West, which I think is just a real credit to her,” Patrick Shugart said. “So, having her — I’m not with the school system, I’m not a teacher or anything – so, I’m an outsider a bit, right? So, when you want to get something going at the school you really need someone on the inside that knows who you have to talk to and what you have to to actually get things done.

“So, having Coach Gillon be our like champion really made all the difference. And once we knew we had some teams to play against, that was kind of the big thing for the administration is that they just didn’t want like a boys team that wasn’t kind of doing anything. And so, they wanted to play against other high schools.”

Shugart was eventually named coach and the players for the Titans started falling into place. One of those players is Grant Lamoureux, who just finished his junior season as a 6-foot-10 outside hitter and a co-captain. And, oh by the way, even though boys indoor volleyball isn’t sanctioned in North Carolina, Lamoureux has already committed to play in college at Pepperdine, which is in Malibu, California.

Much like Thompson, Lamoureux also played on the boys beach volleyball team at West Forsyth. Lamoureux teamed with Hayden Lichty, who is now playing collegiately at Reinhardt University in Georgia, to win the beach volleyball championship last year.

“That was the only thing they had at the time, like freshman year, kind of for a while,” Lamoureux said of beach volleyball at West Forsyth. “And we started talking about making an indoor team like freshman year. And we just didn’t really have the resources enough to make it until last year.”

Beach volleyball and indoor volleyball have some similarities, but they also have many differences. Beach only has two people on the court and indoor has six players on the court at the same time. Also, both beach volleyball and boys indoor volleyball are played simultaneously in the spring. So, many players play both beach and indoor.
“(Gillon) helped a lot like give the ADs stuff to like want to help with it,” Lamoureux said of the birth of the West Forsyth indoor program. “So, that was definitely a big thing. We already had a coach. Like Pat was already willing to do it.”

At a school as large as West Forsyth, there were plenty of boys who wanted to play indoor volleyball.
“(Patrick Shugart) would love for people to try out. I mean, if they’re interested, he’s very inviting for them to come out to play,” Lamoureux said.

Once the team was formed last year, the Titans quickly meshed and became a really good team.
“I think it was a little chaotic just because of trying to get everything fit into certain places and not really knowing what not to do, what we’re allowed to do, you know, what we can and cannot do,” Thompson said of last year’s start. “So, it was a little lackluster.”

Lackluster might seem harsh coming from a player who played in last year’s NCBVA state championship for West Forsyth and was undefeated before losing to Waxhaw Marvin Ridge. However, the players at West Forsyth have high standards.

“It was great. I mean, it sucked to lose, and it’s never really fun to lose, but after that year, I could never be disappointed with how we did,” Lamoureux said. “It was a good team we played.”

Patrick Shugart pretty much echoed what Lamoureux said.

“I think making to the finals in and of itself was a pretty good accomplishment,” Patrick Shugart said. “But, you know, we’ve got good players, right? That’s why I wasn’t super-surprised because someone like Grant is just, he’s just different. He’s like a superhero out there on the court. You don’t get a bigger advantage than having a kid like him.”

Although West Forsyth lost some key pieces from last year’s state-championship runner-up team, it still had plenty of talent this past season.

“We were 100 percent driven to have the expectation that we were going to go and win it all,” Thompson said. “I think we were expecting, and we knew that because of the fact that we showed last year that we were a competitive team and a top team that a lot of people kind of, we were on the chopping block.

“And I think that just brought expectations up more and we were ready to kind of go and win it all.”

During this past regular season, West Forsyth lost to Marvin Ridge. West Forsyth lost in the state playoffs to Weddington.

“We just had a bunch of kids that, even though we lost some kids, everyone that returned was significantly better,” said Patrick Shugart, who coached his son, Liam. “You know, Grant went from 6-foot-8 to 6-foot-10. Because he needed to get taller. And so, we felt really good about it.

“We knew that Marvin Ridge, I think they only graduated one or two kids. So, we knew they’d be really good. And we knew that there was other Charlotte team that would be really strong. Weddington is very strong. And we also knew that Reagan had their program this year.”

Like with any other sport, West Forsyth lost some players to graduation earlier this month, but the team has a strong foundation. However, Lamoureux is expected back next season.

“It’s definitely a great experience to be on the first team here and try to grow it was much as we can,” he said. “So, I’ll be excited to see where it does go.”

Thompson just graduated and is planning on playing club volleyball in college at West Virginia University with a major in cyber security.

“I see kind a future with the kids that are on JV, the astronomical amount of potential that all of them have,” he said. “And I definitely think that West can sooner or later grab a championship against, if it’s even still Marvin Ridge or whoever is still the reigning champ. I think that West has that opportunity. I think there’s a coach, Patrick, he’s definitely the man that can coach anyone and do it into a great player, and can lead players into that title.

“And I’m hoping that it gets sanctioned here soon or just gets sanctioned in general. And I hope that a lot of kids just find that kind of love for the game that I first found.”