SEPT. 26 SPORTS COLUMN — PETE TEMPLE, SPORTS EDITOR
Kyle Menster first became interested in volleyball as a sixth-grader, while watching his father play in sand volleyball leagues in Monticello and Anamosa.
Anyone who watched Kyle work with the Monticello High School volleyball team for four years as manager, then practice his spiking when the Panther matches were over, knows what the sport means to him.
Menster, however, grew up in an area where girls could play organized volleyball, but boys couldn’t.
“It was definitely frustrating, because I knew that volleyball was what I wanted to do, and not being able to was a downer,” Menster said.
Suburban Chicago, he said, was the nearest place in which high school boys volleyball was played.
“I actually tried to convince my parents to move there when I was younger because I wanted to play so badly,” he said.
So for years, he got by on managing the girls high school team. He also attended the high school state tournament, meeting and getting to know people involved in the sport.
One of those connections paid off. Michelle Goodall, head volleyball coach at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School, put Menster in touch with a program called High Performance, which conducts tryouts for male and female players and holds annual tournaments.
“I really thank her for everything she’s done, because she started me in all this volleyball stuff,” Menster said.
He tried out for the 2011 Iowa team, made it, and played in a tournament in Arizona.
This year, Menster expanded his play. He helped form a club team that played in a national club tournament in Dallas, Texas, in June.
“We weren’t supposed to be in it, but a team dropped out, so we got to fill that spot,” Menster said. “We basically just did it to get reps. We didn’t really go in expecting anything.”
The team, Iowa Boys Fire and Ice 18s, went into the tournament ranked 57th, but came out in 52nd place. The team went 4-7, and wound up winning the fifth flight.
A month later, Menster was in Des Moines playing with the Iowa High Performance Boys in the HP national tournament.
“It’s really competitive,” Menster said. “High Performance is the best volleyball players from each region, put on the same team.”
The Iowa team went 4-4 in total matches, 16-13 in total sets, and finished seventh overall out of 18 teams. Menster and his teammates received gold medals as a result of being the best team from the region.
Menster was asked to explain what he loves about the sport.
“The net splits the two teams, and your team controls what they control and the other team controls what they control,” Menster said. “Obviously what they do can affect us. But in basketball and football it’s all about physicality, where in volleyball, a lot of it is about smarts and knowledge of the game.”
Menster, 18, is a freshman studying accounting at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, and hopes to graduate in three years and use a fourth year to earn a master’s degree.
He also plans to continue playing volleyball, but isn’t sure to what extent. St. Ambrose does have a men’s volleyball team, but Menster isn’t sure he wants that commitment.
“I didn’t get recruited, so I’d have to walk on,” he said. “I may try out, I may not. I want to, but I don’t know if it would work just because of the high demand of what school requires me to do.
“I’m just prioritizing. I know that school has to come first. Intramural volleyball does me plenty good, because I get the touches, and it’s pretty high-level at St. Ambrose.”
While he sorts that out, Menster can enjoy the memories of the two major tournaments he played in this past summer.
“It felt like the best time in my life,” Menster said. “I met so many new people through it. I’m finally meeting some guys around the state who love volleyball as much as I do.”