Two Harrisonville boys join other school’s volleyball team
By Christopher Tenpenny
Harrisonville high school students Billy Bottcher and Kennedy Atkinson are doing something which has never happened before at Harrisonville, at least in recent memory; cooperating with another high school sports team.
Bottcher and Atkinson are the newest members of the Ray-Pec boys volleyball team after being unable to start their own local team. Harrisonville had nearly 10 athletes interested in playing volleyball, but the idea was not suggested until after basketball season. When playing locally no longer seemed like an option, Bottcher and Atkinson were the only two left still interested.
“We tried getting a team for Harrisonville, but it wasn’t approved and we gave them late notice,” Bottcher said. “We knew Ray-Pec was going to have a team, but we were told we needed three people, but Kennedy and I were the only two. We really wanted to play so we went to the board, pleaded our case and now we are playing.”
The two join a group of six Ray-Pec students. While the group is considered an official school team, Missouri high school boys volleyball is run by Heart of America Volleyball Association (HOA). The boys are unable to letter or earn individual state awards other than All-Academic.
The team is coach by Ray-Pec assistant girls volleyball coach, Kourtney Thompson. Thompson has quite the resume as she had the opportunity to represent the United States in China for a summer. Thompson said she is very excited to have two new players to the team and both have been welcomed with open arms.
“Our group is kind of a mosh pit of students. Our boys are all from different friend groups,” Thompson said. “Billy and Kennedy fit right in and it’s great to have anyone interested in the sport.”
Bottcher and Atkinson do come in with varying experiences. Bottcher is a junior and is already committed to Ohio State to play volleyball. Bottcher has been playing since he was an eighth grader. He is 6 -7 and plays nearly all year long.
“Watching Billy play is awesome,” Atkinson said. “He knows what he’s doing out there and spikes the ball really hard. He’s a game changer.”
Bottcher serves as the vocal leader. Five of the eight members on the team have never played volleyball before. Bottcher said he wants to show them the right way to play and keep their confidence and energy up.
Atkinson is an All-Conference and All-District football and basketball player who has never played organized volleyball. Atkinson was open to trying something new and has impressed his coach with his progression.
“You could have fooled me with he’s never played before,” Thompson said. “He picks things up very quickly and is athletic. Wish we could’ve had him playing a few years ago.”
The team started the season going 1-1 in their first two games. There were some ups and downs, but Bottcher said there were a lot of things to be happy about. At one point in the second game, Ray-Pec scored 10 straight points with Atkinson serving. Atkinson said it was hard enough to get the ball over the net 10 times in a row, let alone score points every time. Moments like that have Bottcher and the team confident in what they can accomplish this season.
“We had some nerves our first game, but once we got past that we played well,” Bottcher said. “I like this group a lot and as we keep getting better and practicing, I think we can win a championship.”