Munster’s AJ Horin is excited about boys volleyball in Indiana

AJ Horin just wanted to get out of the house.

It was the height of the coronavirus pandemic and he was living in the suburbs of Seattle.

“I had to find something to do because I was stuck in the house all day with nothing to do,” AJ Horin said. “I discovered volleyball and the community was just great.”

That community kept him in Washington for six years. But AJ Horin’s growing passion for volleyball saw him return to Munster so he could play for his sister Madison, the boys’ volleyball coach. Madison Horin, a 2019 Munster graduate, played volleyball at USC.

AJ Horin, a 6-foot-10 sophomore middle blocker, started every game at middle blocker for the Mustangs (13-12), whose season ended with a 25-19, 29-27, 25-22 loss to Lake Central on Saturday.

But next season will have a different ending for AJ Horin and teams across the state, following the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s April 29 announcement that boys volleyball – as well as girls wrestling – will receive full recognition for the 2024-2025 school year. Sanctioned postseason tournaments will be held for both sports.

AJ Horin said he hopes this will increase interest in Munster’s programme.

“There are so many people we talk to who don’t even know we have a boys volleyball team,” he said. “Now that it’s a recognized sport, we might get more people from the school.”

AJ Horin is happy to be a volleyball recruiter these days, but his early experiences in the sport were not so positive.

“At first I hated volleyball,” he said, laughing. “Two of my older sisters played volleyball, so that meant so many hours waiting for tournaments.”

But when AJ Horin turned to volleyball to escape the doldrums of the pandemic, his opinion of the sport took a “complete 180,” as he put it. But there was no volleyball team at his high school in Washington, and the club scene didn’t offer enough tournaments to satisfy him.

Then he heard that Madison Horin, who also played on USA Volleyball’s youth and junior teams during her career, would become the boys volleyball coach at Munster.

“I thought, ‘Wow, maybe I’ll try to move,’” AJ Horin said.

Munster's Maddie Horin (21) celebrates after scoring against Penn during the second regional match in LaPorte on Saturday, October 20, 2018.

Suzanne Tennant / Post-Tribune

Munster’s Madison Horin (21) celebrates a point against Penn during a Class 4A LaPorte Regional semifinal on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. (Suzanne Tennant / Post-Tribune)

Madison Horin said she was initially thrilled to hear he would be playing on her team, although she had some reservations about coaching her sibling.

“We have a good sibling relationship and we do some at home, but we had to figure out a way to make it work in the gym,” she said. “We had a conversation about it. I was very excited, but I was also aware that problems could arise.”

Munster assistant Kalin Miller said the Horin siblings found a way to make it all work.

“It was very new for both of them at first,” Miller said. “You could tell they were very close, and he wanted to call her ‘Maddie’ but had to call her ‘coach.’ But once the season started, you didn’t even know it anymore. There was a nice balance.”

As the season progressed, Madison Horin said she noticed a lot of similarities between her and AJ.

“Competitiveness is in Horin’s blood,” she said, laughing. “He’s very similar to me in that respect. It was cool to see that up close and see how much of an athlete he has become – not only as his sister, but as someone who loves the game.”

AJ Horin shares that love for the game, and his summer plans include learning to drive so he can get his driver’s license and hit the gym more often in preparation for next season. He also has a position change in mind. He wants to become an outside hitter because he believes he can have a bigger impact on games.

“In the middle it is more difficult to control the flow, because you are not the one making the switch and you are not always assured of a blockage,” says AJ Horin. “I want to grow to that stage, from someone who is used to a good game, to someone who can make it a good game.”

Dave Melton is a freelance reporter.