Mehok To Play At Nationals - Titusville Herald: Sports

Mehok To Play At Nationals

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Posted: Friday, June 22, 2018 8:00 pm

Since the fourth grade when he was inspired by his older brother to take the court, Kyle Mehok and volleyball have been inseparable. 

Whether it has been through the Maplewood volleyball program in the PENNCREST School District or outside tournaments, Mehok has been working on his craft for about a decade.

On July 1-5, the 2018 District 10 First Team all-star and other athletes from the schools in Crawford County will represent the “Tool City” area at the USA Volleyball Boys’ Junior National Championships in Phoenix, Ariz.

This will be the fifth straight year that Mehok has competed at the USA Volleyball Boys’ Junior National Championships. However, this will be his furthest trip from home, having already traveled to Columbus, Ohio and Dallas and Houston,  in Texas.

Mehok has seen some success during his previous four trips having a combined record of 14-24, while the 2014 club team finished play in the bronze bracket. However, he believes that this year’s group of players will make up the best team yet.

“It’s really important to build some chemistry before playing in the tournament,” Mehok said. “Our team last year, we wouldn’t get excited and didn’t play well. I think it was more of that focus and trying to be consistent in practice so far that helped us get better this year.”

It’s easy to understand how it would be hard to build enough team chemistry among a team full of players that hadn’t really played together in the past. It’s a tall task for players who only get a couple of weeks to practice together after making it through the tryout before the action begins at the national championships.

“This year will be a lot better,” Mehok said. “I’m close with the guys that I’m playing with, and we all get along. I think this will be one of the best teams we’ve had.”

Mehok and some of his other teammates have definitely experienced their fair share of shock and awe from playing in past tournaments. Whether it’s the large cities, the tournament venues, or the talent of the players, there has been plenty to be amazed by for rural athletes from Crawford County. 

“When you first get to the tournament and walk into this big convention center, it’s just all volleyball,” Mehok said. “It’s hard to even see across the whole thing. It’s a great environment, especially if you have a love for volleyball. [In my first tournament], our hotel was attached to the third biggest mall in the country. We were already in awe about that. Then we walked in the convention center, and I could not believe how big it was.

“Last year, we ended up playing this Puerto Rican team. They weren’t tall, but they could jump. This one kid, I will never forget, was about 5-6 and he could jump out of the sky. He would just explode up and have a crazy fast arm swing and would hit straight down. I’ll never forget when he hit the 10-foot line over Turner Kurt. It was amazing to see. It’s amazing to see the level of play. It’s the best of the country playing against each other.”

Though some things have changed over the past few years, such as the location of the championships and the opponents, the support Mehok has been given from his family has remained constant. 

His brother, Evan, inspired him to play the game. Like with becoming an Eagle Scout, Kyle followed in the footsteps of his older brother in playing volleyball, even though he wasn’t a huge fan at first. 

“My brother is one of the most mature and responsible kids that I know,” Mehok said. “He’s a great example, and is always doing the right thing. I used to hate [playing volleyball], but then I became all about it.” 

Kyle’s parents, Doug and Leann, have traveled with him to every tournament. Also, Doug has been an assistant coach with the Maplewood Tigers program throughout Kyle’s varsity career. 

“Honestly, when I see somebody on my team [whose] parents aren’t there, I’m shocked because I’m so used to them being there at everything for me,” Mehok humbly said. “I guess I take it a little bit for granted. It’s amazing to have such a supportive family, and I’m really fortunate. They are at everything. They’ll cancel appointments and change their schedules to be at my games.”

Not only the support from his family is critical to making this a success journey, but the support from the community is as well. With the cost of being on the team, along with the airfare and hotel, the Tool City players utilize fundraising to help negate the cost of the trip.

“When the airplane tickets are so expensive to get there, it takes a lot of people out,” Mehok said. “Not everyone can afford that. Fundraising is very important.  It helps a lot of players. The cost alone to tryout is $500, which you get back if you don’t make the team.”

After leaping past the hurdles of the weeks leading up the tournament, Mehok and his fellow teammates will be ready to make the trek to Arizona come the turn of the calendar. When asked if he would be nervous about this year’s national championships, Mehok replied “not really.”

“It’s fascinating and a great experience to go watch players that are a higher level than you re used to seeing,” Mehok said. “It makes you a better player.”

Mehok and his team are still accepting donations at this time, and can be sent to 33950 State Highway 27, Guys Mills, Pa., 16327.

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