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Yeshiva boys net place on SA volleyball team

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Two Yeshiva College pupils, Reuven Crouse and Binyamin Sandler, have been selected to play volleyball for the South African Under-18 side. They were selected following their performance playing for the Gauteng Under-18 side in the recent interprovincial tournament in Limpopo, where they played with fellow schoolmates Da’el Basserabie and Ari Zlotnick The four helped their provincial side finish third out of nine provinces.

Volleyball is a “big thing” at Yeshiva College, says Crouse, a Grade 10 student. “In primary school, you look up to the high school boys, and they’re playing volleyball,” he says. “We kind of grow up with it around us. The minute you get to high school, you start playing. We play all day – between classes, after school, and on Sundays.”

It’s a recipe for success. In 2022 and this year, the Yeshiva College Under-19 boys team won the Goliath Cup, a Gauteng high school volleyball league. In the first weekend of April, the school placed third out of 13 schools in the 2023 ISSA (International School of South Africa) Mahikeng Volleyball Tour tournament.

Practices for the interprovincial tournament were moved to Sundays from Saturdays to accommodate the Yeshiva students. The trials were initially on a Saturday, and no Yeshiva students could attend. “We couldn’t go because we all keep Shabbos,” Crouse says.

The Gauteng volleyball squad selected “was weak without our boys”, Yeshiva sports coach Kenneth Mather says. “I was contacted by Gauteng Volleyball. There were certain boys it really wanted, having watched them in the league which we won earlier this year. I said, the only way that can happen is if it’s moved to a Sunday, which they did.”

The Gauteng team stayed in a hostel during the tournament. “We brought our own food from home, and we had time to daven,” Sandler says.

“We had left the tournament after our third-place match because we wanted to get home before Shabbos,” Sandler recalls. “As we arrived home, they phoned us and told us we had been selected for the national side. I was completely shocked. I thought I had such a poor performance the first two days of the four that I had no chance.”

They haven’t trained with the national team yet, but “there’s supposed to be a training camp near the end of the year before we go play for South Africa next year,” Sandler says.

At the ISSA school against school tournament, which included schools from Zimbabwe and Zambia, Crouse received the title of best attacker and his fellow Yeshiva College student, Jacob Hoffman, was named best receiver.

“We went to the ISSA with our school team that we won the Goliath Cup with,” Crouse says. “It was a whole new experience, way more challenging than the Goliath. The provincial tournament was definitely the hardest I and the other three players have ever played in, but it was a lot of fun and a bonding experience.”

Volleyball at Yeshiva has evolved from a break activity to a formal sport in the past two years, Mather says. “Now we do formal practices and matches.”

Yeshiva has qualified volleyball coaches as well as two sand volleyball courts and one grass court. However, in the tournaments, they play indoor volleyball, “which is six aside and on hard courts like basketball or badminton courts”, Sandler says.

“We would love to have more courts,” Mather says. “We just don’t have the space, so we’re trying to raise funds to mark the tennis courts so that they can also be used for netball and, of course, volleyball.”

Based on the number of students who play volleyball, Mather says it’s the joint second most popular sport at the school. “They just love the game. For the girls, the most popular sport is netball and for the boys, it’s football.

“We’ve started a girls’ team for girls in the girls high school with the intention for them to join the girls league next year.”

Sandler says it gets competitive among the students who play volleyball.

“We started playing when we began high school and all the older boys taught us how to play,” says Crouse.

“I and the three other boys I went to provincials with all just started at a club called Quantum Hydras. It has a lot more practices and game time, so it’s a new experience for us. Plus, we met a lot of people from provincials and from all these tournaments.”

Volleyball is simple to play, Sandler says. “All you need is the ball, a net, and a bunch of people to have fun with.”

But you need to be quite fit. “It’s not the most demanding sport on your body unless you play a lot of games on the same day. At the tournament in Mahikeng, we played three or four games on one day, so it can be quite demanding over the whole tournament.

“I don’t have any major goal in volleyball,” Sandler says. “I just enjoy playing the sport because it’s helped me to make a lot of friends. It’s allowed me to be more social. My whole goal is to have fun and play the sport as much as I can.”

Says Mather, “We’re pushing to have volleyball included in Maccabi Games in Israel. We’re waiting to hear if we’ll be sending a team in 2025.”

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