Inside the “heart of the team”

Senior Luke Spooner reflects on volleyball journey

Senior Luke Spooner prepared to serve. He threw the ball against the wall, caught it and turned around. Eyeing the court, he checked in with his teammates before starting the play with resounding thunder.

Spooner is a senior on the Varsity Boys’ Volleyball team and has been playing for all four years of high school. He’s not hard to spot on the court, as he wears a different colored jersey than the rest of the team. Luke plays libero, a specialized defensive position that focuses on keeping the play alive. In the home game against Crossroads High School, he wore a black uniform with the number 20, a Nike headband and bright tangerine-colored shoes.

Spooner’s first real taste of the sport was during his freshman year when he joined with little expectations and “was hooked ever since.”

“It seemed like a really good community sport and that everyone was involved in it,” Spooner said.

Volleyball is not his only sport; he also surfs for fun. Playing at the beach with his teammates helped him when he was first starting out.

“They’d help me just kind of have fun with it, but still get a lot of reps in,” Spooner said.

Freshman year helped him get to know the team and find out where he wanted to go with the sport. He met the “ridiculously good” varsity team who served as his inspiration.

“I just wanted to be on that level by the time I was a senior,” Spooner said.

Before he knew it, his dream became a reality. Playing volleyball year-round allowed him to get better at the game and gave him “knowledge outside of just Oak Park.” When sophomore year came around, Spooner played on the varsity team led by head coach Eric Varney.

“He has probably been the most influential coach I’ve ever had,” Spooner said. “He pushes us to get better. No matter how good we get, he’s always trying to get us better, which I think is a really good, important quality of a coach.”

In his junior year, Spooner played libero on varsity for the first time.

“Playing the libero position, you got to be scrappy, you got to work really hard, pass well, and he really earned it last year. He was one of the best defensive players in the state,” Varney said.“He is our floor captain, so if things go wrong, they’re looking to him for leadership.”

Both in and outside of games, Luke is an encouraging teammate and friend, according to Varney. Even when there is little time before the next play, he makes it his job to high-five his teammates and do his best to lift their spirits.

“He has a lot of heart and cares a lot for his teammates,” Varney said. “They are all really good friends. He really is the heart of the team,”

As a senior, he also fulfills a mentor role.

“I think it’s really nice to be looked at as a voice on the team and just pass down my wisdom of what I learned and the little tricks I’ve figured out,” Spooner said.

Since his freshman year, the varsity team had always won the Coastal Canyon League, so Spooner “doesn’t want this year to be any different.” After league, Spooner says, “whatever comes, comes.”

Unfortunately, his season was abruptly ended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think our record shows that we were on our way to do something big again, but things happen and I’m happy with the memories I made with the boys with the time we had,” Spooner said.

After he graduates, Spooner could have the opportunity to play volleyball in college, but he decided that he would rather have “the regular college experience.”

“If I was going to play, I’d want to play at division one, and at that level, you don’t really have a life outside of volleyball,” Spooner said.

Even when some days are harder than others, volleyball has been a place for Luke to relax and enjoy doing what he loves.

“Volleyball, in many cases, has been the thing where I just come into and don’t think about anything else,” Spooner said. “If I’m ever going through anything tough — practice and games, those are always something I can count on to just get myself away from something. It’s really nice.”