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Thursday, June 4, 2020

A whole new ball game

Under a clear blue sky and the sun’s rays, freshman Christian Mueller sets down the equipment. Cleats bump a soccer ball sending it in Mueller’s direction. Mueller remains unfazed, continuing to set up the net.

Mueller, however, isn’t a soccer goalie. He’s setting up to play the fast-paced team sport Spikeball.

Freshman Liam Moser hits the ball off the Spikeball net.  Western is currently including Spikeball in its lineup of fall intramural sports. // Photo by Christina Becker
Freshman Liam Moser hits the ball off the Spikeball net. Western is currently including Spikeball in its lineup of fall intramural sports. // Photo by Christina Becker

The game gets going and players begin to contort their bodies in various ways in order to make sure the ball does not hit the ground. The action is fast-paced and has players diving to keep the ball lofted in the air.

“My first day here we showed plenty of groups how to play it and had a good time teaching people,” Mueller said.

Spikeball is a team sport that requires two teams of two players to surround a net. The opposing teams line up across from each other, the net situated in the center, according to the official website.

The net is the centerpiece of the sport. A springy mesh is stretched over a hoop and supported off the ground, like a mini-trampoline. Players bounce the Spikeball off the net, reaching, bounding and spiking to score.

As soon as the ball is served, the players have free reign to move around the net. Players may only use their hands to bounce the ball, and a team can only touch the ball three times before it must bounce off the net.

The goal of all of this is to hit the ball onto the net so that the other team will not be able to return it. A single game can go up to 21 points and must be won by at least two.

Mueller was first introduced to the sport this past summer after his friends asked him to play. After discovering that Western would offer Spikeball fall quarter, Mueller said he became excited at the possibility to play.

Playing Spikeball was all Mueller and his friends did before heading up to Western, he said.

Mueller said he hopes that by introducing the sport to other people it can help Spikeball gain a stronger following at Western.

The game of Spikeball has been rapidly growing across the nation. According to the website, there are more than 250,000 players nationwide and more than a thousand nationally ranked teams.

Freshman Liam Moser bounces the ball off the Spikeball net to his teammate.  Spikeball is played in teams of two and functions like foursquare. // Photo by Christina Becker
Freshman Liam Moser bounces the ball off the Spikeball net to his teammate. Spikeball is played in teams of two and functions like foursquare. // Photo by Christina Becker

Kirsten Schumacher first played Spikeball four years ago as a Western student. Now, working as the intramural sports coordinator, Schumacher believes that intramurals need to start focusing on the less traditional ball sports.

“I think that Spikeball can be our first catalyst of that, get it going and show people that we have other offerings,” Schumacher said.

The gameplay is quick and athletic, Schumacher said, but it’s also beautiful.

“We had a spike go 30 yards away from the net, came back, rallied back and still were able to make it bounce again,” Schumacher said. “It was glorious, there was a lot of diving involved.”

Junior Sarah Stochel said she doesn’t know anybody else who’s as enthusiastic about Spikeball as herself.

She was introduced to the sport by some friends while working at a summer camp a year ago. The dynamic of the game began to change once she started to get the hang of it, she said.

Having already had some experience, Stochel said she knows it is possible to become better.

“It’s easy to learn but it’s hard to be good at. I have a lot of work to do,” Stochel said.

Senior Ashley Haden said she came up with the idea to bring Spikeball to intramurals at Western.

Photo by Christina Becker
Photo by Christina Becker

As an intramural staff member, the goal was to prevent

overcrowding at the Wade King Student Recreation Center due to the remodeling of Carver Gymnasium, Haden said.

The rules are strikingly similar to volleyball, Haden said. Unlike volleyball however, the ball has to hit the net, not over the net.

Haden said she can see Spikeball becoming a yearlong sport, because it’s played outdoors at the track next to the student rec center and will not require the use of indoor court space. 

“I want intramurals to be a chance for everyone to get out there and I think Spikeball is our first chance to really show them that,” Schumacher said.

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