Boys volleyball team reaches state tourney again

by Laura Bednar

After making it to the semifinals of the Division II state tournament in 2023, the Independence High School boys volleyball team followed its inaugural year by doing it again in May.

“It was exciting to be at states two years in a row,” said head coach Lexi Prokopius. “Last year we focused on skills. This year we took the game to the next step.”

This included serving more aggressively, building a stronger defense and working hard every practice. “Our experience from last year made people come back,” said Prokopius. “The more you play, the more comfortable you get, and the more experience you’ll get.”

She noted some key players among the roster of 15.

Senior Landon Jatsek started as a setter and became a mid-hitter. “He put the ball down and got points when we needed them,” she said. Jatsek was named second team All-Ohio and regional Player of the Year.

Senior Mark Pillar joined the team this year, and Prokopius said he picked up the sport quickly. “He led the team in kills with Landon and became a versatile player,” she said.

This was sophomore Jamie Panichi’s first year setting, but Prokopius said he was able to control the ball well throughout the season.

Senior Wyatt Snyder has only played volleyball for two years. Said Prokopius, “He is a born volleyball player and meshed well with the sport.”

Anderson Sears is a sophomore who will be a captain next year, according to Prokopius.

“I play them all, everybody contributes,” she said.

The team had an overall regular season record of 12-7 and lost to Archbishop McNicholas High School from Cincinnati in the state semis.

Prokopius said several schools at the state tourney have had volleyball programs for over 15 years. During a May Independence Board of Education meeting, board Vice President Carrie Sears said that among the eight teams at the state semis (D-I and D-II), Independence was one of three public schools.

“After their loss, all they were doing was looking up at the parents in the stands and clapping to us as we were clapping to them,” board member Ron Bernstein said at the meeting.

“It was a good way to end the season,” said Prokopius. “We will miss the 10 seniors next year.”

The plan is to recruit new players and build on the team’s foundation.

“We would love to keep both the junior varsity and varsity teams,” said Prokopius. “We are trying to get the kids to love the sport, get out there and have fun.” ∞

Two Independence players work to defend
against an incoming ball. Photo courtesy
of Lexi Prokopius.

On our cover (photo): The Independence High School boys volleyball team poses after winning the regional championship. The team of 15 boys again advanced to the Final Four at the state championship. Photo courtesy of Lexi Prokopius.