Senior year of high school: staring out at the volleyball court and eating popsicles, Dustan Neary and Michael Henchy sat with their backs against the bleachers after defeating a high school rival for their first time in 10 years.
“That was a pretty cool moment and I think it says something about our friendship off the court,” Henchy said of the time with Neary after the win.
Now both juniors on the Ohio State men’s volleyball team, Neary and Henchy were previously high school volleyball teammates at Ventura High School in Ventura, Calif. The pair officially became teammates their sophomore year of high school when they both made the varsity team. Henchy said slowly but surely, he and Neary became good friends.
“We didn’t really know each other freshmen and sophomore years. Our junior year we started to hang out a little bit and our senior year he started hanging out with me and my friend group a lot,” Henchy said. “It was more of an every weekend than an occasional kind of thing. Just spent a lot of time hanging out together … we could play pretty much any sport together.”
Even though the two are good friends, they agreed they get a little competitive at practice, both in high school and today at OSU, where Neary is a middle blocker and Henchy is an outside hitter.
“During high school our coach would have to split us up and put us on separate teams, it was always a battle,” Neary said with a laugh. “We would talk trash through the net all the time. But at the end of practice, we knew we were friends.”
After high school, different recruiting processes led them to opposite ends of the country.
Neary attended Moorpark Community College in California for two years before coming to OSU. Although Neary started playing volleyball in the fourth grade, he said he had more of a passion for basketball and that hurt him during recruitment.
“I played basketball through high school and volleyball was kind of just something I did when I wasn’t playing basketball,” Neary said. “I didn’t start taking volleyball seriously until my junior year of high school … Everybody else had started (playing) earlier and I think they got noticed earlier, I was late getting into it. My talent was more raw, I guess.”
Neary added he transferred to OSU so he could continue his volleyball career.
Ventura High School boys volleyball coach Kim Adair said in a phone interview she loved Neary’s laughter on the court.
“When he’d make a block or a kill, he would just turn around and have this grin on his face and then he’d get into the huddle and just laugh, just get joy from what he did,” Adair said.
At 6 feet 6 inches tall, Henchy didn’t start playing volleyball until his freshman year of high school, and Adair said she enjoyed watching him develop a passion for the game.
OSU men’s volleyball coach Pete Hanson said Henchy’s level-mindedness makes him a great asset on the court.
“Michael brings a real level of steadiness, maturity … I think because we’re a pretty young group right now, that’s important for us,” Hanson said. “He keeps everybody pretty focused on the next play, regardless of what might have happened on the previous play.”
Henchy said his decision to come to OSU was an easy one.
“I took my official visit to Ohio State, went to a football game and got to meet the guys on the team and it was just a no-brainer from there,” Henchy said.
Neary said after deciding to transfer, OSU was always an option because he had a good friend there.
“In the recruiting process, I (sought) them (OSU) out first and out of the schools I showed myself to, Ohio State showed the biggest response,” Neary said. “Having my friend here made a difference.”
Hanson said Neary’s work ethic was what made him appealing.
“When we watched him at a junior college tournament, his team was playing in like eight or nine games in a couple hours and he seemed to play all the games,” Hanson said. “He kind of just kept going, and going, and going … and that is what kind of caught our eye — this guy just works hard all the time.”
Henchy said he was excited to hear Neary was considering transferring to OSU to play.
“When I found out he (Neary) was thinking of coming here, the wheels started to spin and I started putting in some good words with the coaches. I started telling him more about the campus,” Henchy said.
In those two years, the two players kept in touch by emails and texts every now and then, and got to hang out on breaks from school.
“After not seeing him that much for two years, I came here and it was pretty much exactly the same, exactly where we started off,” Neary said.
On the OSU men’s volleyball team (7-6, 4-2), the two players have worked to become starters.
“It’s funny lining up next to him in the front row and looking over and seeing the same thing the entire way through high school,” Neary said.
Correction Feb. 25: An earlier version of this article’s headline had Dustan Neary’s first name spelled ‘Dustin,’ when in fact, it is Dustan.