Boys Volleyball: Mike Simmons has grown into a leader for Waubonsie ValleyMike Simmons of Waubonsie Valley soars high above his Warrior teammates to return the ball against West Aurora. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 9, 2012 8:15PM
Mike Simmons’ sister Ally, a former middle hitter at Waubonsie Valley who’s now playing at Grand Valley State, might be the first to take credit for getting her younger brother interested in volleyball.
But getting her to admit that he has become a better player could be another story.
“Last year, I was finally able to beat my sister,” said Simmons, a 6-6 sophomore outside hitter for the surprising Warriors. “Nobody would say I beat them [his father is a former beach player], but I think I got [bragging rights at home] now.”
Waubonsie Valley (13-2) has earned some bragging rights of its own since finishing second at the Marist Invitational. The Warriors’ only losses this season came in the Marist finals to Lincoln-Way North and in the quarterfinals at Wheaton Warrenville South to eventual runner-up Lincoln-Way East.
Simmons, who enjoyed a three-inch growth spurt between his freshman and sophomore years, is a big reason for the Warriors’ not-so-surprising success.
“He’s getting a lot of respect for a sophomore,” Waubonsie Valley coach Al Lagger said. “Lincoln-Way East was triple-teaming him. He saw the same thing a couple of times at Marist. There were teams triple-blocking him and he was still able to go around them.”
A year ago, Simmons would not have been able to hit around a triple-block, at least not without committing a violation. That’s because last year he was a setter.
“I think it helped him being up last year as a freshman and being a setter,” Lagger said. “Now he’s got a setter mentality as a hitter, which really, really helps with him and [junior setter] Luke [Furman]. It’s like having two coaches on the floor.”
Simmons’ stint as a setter last year was his first foray into the position since he was 11. He has spent most of his career playing outside hitter.
“When I was 11 years old and just starting to play club, I was a setter,” he said. “But every other year I was an outside hitter. One year I was a middle, but that was a long time ago. I don’t really miss setting. Hitting is a lot more fun.”
Especially at Waubonsie, where teammates like 6-6 senior Mike Storm, 6-5 junior Tyler House, 6-3 junior Jon Pyne and 6-4 sophomore Connor Douville benefit from the attention teams pay to Simmons.
“I get triple-blocked a lot on club, but I’m not used to it in high school,” Simmons said. “The Marist Invite was the first time it ever happened. It’s tough to hit around, but it shows that they respect us and want to block us really bad. But anyone on our team who gets set can put the ball down. We have hitters all the way around.”