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Boys Volleyball: Oak Forest’s Jeff Sprayberry a power player

Jeff Sprayberry for Oak Forest Volleyball for Spring PhoDay Andrew High School Sunday March 23rd 2014 Tinley Park | Gary

Jeff Sprayberry for Oak Forest Volleyball for Spring Photo Day at Andrew High School, Sunday, March 23rd, 2014 in Tinley Park | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 16, 2014 6:27AM



Oak Forest’s Jeff Sprayberry has turned into one of the Southland’s big hitters, but he’s not delivering the type of blows that his family has come to expect.

“I played linebacker until my sophomore year,” Sprayberry, a senior, said. “All my family is really into football, and two of my older brothers got full rides (scholarships) to play Division II football. I think my brothers were looking forward to me following in their footsteps.”

Sprayberry, the youngest of five, will compete at the next level, though it won’t be on the gridiron. When he decided to put down the cleats, his intent was to focus on volleyball year-round. The choice is paying dividends.

Sprayberry committed to King University in Bristol, Tenn., after impressing coach Ryan Booher with his club play during the summer.

“Traveling to different states and playing different teams from around the country is when my game really started pulling up,” said Sprayberry, a member of Chicago Volleyball Club.

In addition to his scholarship, the experience helped pave the way for other accolades. The 6-foot-4 outside hitter is one of 141 players from around the country nominated on the All-America Watch List by the American Volleyball Coaches Association, which will name 20 seniors as All-Americans in May.

Sprayberry also should be a front-runner — along with Richards’ Ed Karalius — for the South Suburban Player of the Year award. Sprayberry was the only junior nominated for the honor last season.

“He’s the best volleyball player that I’ve coached in my time,” Oak Forest coach Lee Rucinski said. “I’m still young — I’ve only been doing this for seven or eight years — but he’s one not only from an athletic mind-set, but he’s building his volleyball IQ.”

Rucinski said Sprayberry constantly is working on his craft. He’s adding off-speed shots to go with his power. Through 13 matches, Sprayberry totaled 153 kills, 27 aces and 65 digs on a robust .41 hitting percentage.

“I’m always working on something to change because there’s always someone better than you,” Sprayberry said. “There’s always room for bettering yourself.”

While Oak Forest (9-6) is 0-2 without Sprayberry in the lineup, the Bengals are far from a one-man team. Outside hitter Dylan Ross is a threat and setter Brett Staehlin has done well in spreading the attack.

“We have a lot of good players who can step up,” Sprayberry said. “I knew I had to be a leader and be vocal to get the team together coming into the season. We’ve been working on our team chemistry and gym culture.”



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