Westminster Boys Volleyball Club a place to learn, play

When Ed Benish moved from Pennsylvania to Maryland, he noticed quite a difference in volleyball culture.

Perhaps most distinctly? A lack of boys teams.


During his three seasons as the volleyball coach at Westminster High School, Benish has heard from his former students at East Middle School wanting to know exactly why.

"After every match we have here in the fall, guys are always coming up to me that I used to teach at the middle school and say, 'Why don't we have boys volleyball?' 'Why don't we have boys volleyball?'" Benish said. "So eventually, after my third season, I said, 'OK, I pretty much have everything settled out here, let's get the guys involved and see how many guys want to come out and play.'"

It's a relatively new endeavor for the Owls' coach, but he has seen some positive feedback from just the first few weeks. When Benish held the first informational meeting for the new Westminster Boys Volleyball Club in February, he had 20 kids show up.

The club can only practice on days when the gym at Westminster is not already being used. So because of some rainouts for spring sports, the club has had a few of its first practices washed out.

The most recent practice was on Wednesday, when Benish said he had 13 guys attend.

"It's really interesting actually," said Westminster senior Dan Rampolla, a Times all-county soccer player who has joined the volleyball club. "I haven't watched many games and he brings some of the girls out from the team so you watch them and see how they work together and then you try to do what they do. It's a new experience and kind of fun."

Benish uses his Owls girls squad to teach the sport the boys in the club. He said most of the guys who attend don't have much background knowledge of the sport, so many of the first practices are teaching the fundamentals.

"I remember when I first started learning, guys have this mentality that anything that is available to me, I can do it," Benish said. "The first practice, I think a lot of them, even when we were just doing passing, realized that, 'Wow, this is a lot more difficult than I thought.'"


Jacob Pasteur, who is in eighth grade and homeschooled, has had interest in volleyball for a long time, but hasn't always found a place to play. Now with Benish's club, he has had the opportunity to do just that.

"My parents met playing volleyball and I always seemed to have a passion for it even while playing baseball at the same time. It's really something I always loved, my parents would teach me quite a bit," Pasteur said. "I normally set quite a bit, so I want to focus on getting them the perfect pass that they need in order to get points."

Not many high schools in Maryland have boys volleyball as an official varsity sport. Harford County and Montgomery County have the sport, as well as some private school leagues.

In the long term, Benish hopes that he is able to get enough participation and support to turn the club into a varsity sport. And not just at Westminster, but around the county as well.

With the boys volleyball club, not only is Benish's girls team helping out, but so are other coaches, such as Winters Mill's Kari Totten, and players from the McDaniel College volleyball team which won the Centennial Conference championship this past fall.

But the club isn't just a learning opportunity for the boys, but also for Benish, who played volleyball at the high school and club level while attending Carlisle High School in Pennsylvania and then in a city league while attending Penn State University.


The Westminster coach sees big differences in teaching the sport to boys rather than girls.

"Hitting isn't just about jumping up and swinging as hard as you can, but you're actually trying to do something with it," Benish said. "So they're kind of learning how to control their power a little bit and use it for good and I think it's a little humbling at times."