By: Adam Niemeyer (FOX 19 Sports)
When you think Moeller athletics one word comes to mind: dynasty. Dynasties like Moeller's nationally ranked football teams from the '70s, the recent success of Carl Kremer's basketball program, and players like Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr. on the baseball diamond, all have made their mark as Moeller athletic dynasties.
But if you think of athletic dynasties at Moeller, you might not think of the sport where the Crusaders have captured six state titles in since 1997—volleyball. So, what makes Moeller volleyball such a dominant force in this state?
"I think we definitely have the coaching to take athletes who get cut from other sports and turn them into volleyball players," said junior A.J. Eckhoff.
Head Coach Greg Ulland played on Moeller's first state title team in 1997. Now, he's the head coach of the best team in the GCL. Ulland mentioned that volleyball is, "The ultimate team sport." Players at Moeller have bought into the competitive atmosphere the school has created and transferred that spirit to the volleyball court.
"It's so competitive here at Moeller," Ulland said. "We have fed off of some kids who have had real good experience and skill and some other kids that were just looking to be part of something that was great."
Volleyball is often thought of as a "girl's sport", but the men of Moeller have made volleyball their own. What separates girl's high school volleyball from the boys?
"Just the physical abilities makes boys volleyball a lot more intense than girls and a lot more fun to watch in my opinion," said senior John Abeln.
Ulland added, "In the rest of the world it's not considered a girl's sport at all, but here in Southwest Ohio we don't play on Friday nights and that's where we get left I guess."
And Ulland should know. He began his coaching career in the late 1990s at Mount Notre Dame. He admitted that the difference between girls and boys volleyball is shrinking though. "The girls tend to be a little more skilled and play a little more defense and the boys like to hit more," he said. "But I had some Mount Notre Dame teams that played like a bunch of guys, and we were pretty good."
However, the Crusaders have been more than pretty good. Compiling seven state championship trophies in 13 years is no easy task, especially with some of the rivalries in the GCL South.
"The competition between teams, the rivalries between us and St. X, and us and Elder, and LaSalle just makes every game that much more important and that much more intense," Abeln said.
Intensity is the key at Moeller. This year's team won the GCL championship, Moeller's fourth, and they are looking to win yet another state title. On Saturday the 22nd, the Crusaders defeated St. Xavier in three games, moving on to the state quarterfinals. Moeller will play Cleveland's St. Ignatius in Centerville on Saturday at 3:15 p.m.
Junior Tucker Skove knows what it takes to win a state title. His brother Trevor was a senior on last year's team that defeated Elder in five games to win the state title. "Everybody's just committed to excellence. Guys come here and they don't accept mediocrity," he said. "Everybody wants to come here and win championships and everybody wants to win."
With only three more wins, Moeller will have another state title to add to their already full trophy case.