Prep boys volleyball: Madison East’s Sam Heiman has put in the work to become one of the state’s top players
When Sam Heiman first signed up for the Madison East boys volleyball team, he viewed it as a fun secondary sport to play during the fall before refocusing his attention to baseball.
Through his first two seasons, he grew to appreciate the sport — though he still preferred baseball.
That all changed after his sophomore season when, at the urging of his coach, the 6-foot-4 outside/middle hitter for Madison East signed up for club volleyball for the first time.
“When I took over, Sam was a sophomore,” East coach Matt Filteau said. “When I saw him play, I saw a lot of talent.
“I knew that he was going to be good. I told him that year that he had a chance to be one of the better players in the conference by his senior year.”
Heiman took those words of encouragement and ran with them.
Between his sophomore and junior years, Heiman began to play for the Madison Elite club volleyball team and was quickly moved to the 18-year-old team, despite being 16 at the time.
“It really opened my eyes to what my potential was and what the game could offer me,” Heiman said. “That year really pushed me and got me to make a tremendous improvement. It was a big leap from my sophomore year to my junior year.”
The improvement was immediately evident.
As a junior, Heiman totaled 301 kills and 129 digs on his way to earning first-team all-Big Eight Conference honors. He became one of only eight juniors to be named to the all-state team.
Beyond the offensive growth, the improvement on the defensive end enabled Filteau to rotate Heiman between outside and middle, keeping him on the court and up front throughout the match.
“The quantum leap that I saw from him, between that first time I saw him playing and when he came back for his junior year, was beyond my expectations,” Filteau said. “Everyone else in the conference started realizing that he wasn’t just a good player on East, he was a really good player above and beyond most of the players he played against.”
With his senior season on the horizon, Heiman made one final effort to take his game to an even higher level.
With the support of his parents and his coach, Heiman moved from Madison Elite to the Milwaukee Volleyball Club, a nationally ranked team that’s known as one of the best programs in the country.
After a summer of work with the team and coaching staff, Heiman can feel the difference as he prepares for his final high school year.
“It made my defense better, it made my blocking better, it made my hitting better,” Heiman said. “The workout program helped me jump higher and I can feel myself becoming quicker, I feel more in shape and ready to take on my senior season.”
Though the Purgolders have struggled to establish themselves as a competitive program in recent years, Filteau believes that with the help of Heiman, as well as seniors Carson Tomony and Eli Herr, the team finally might be set up to step into the upper half of the conference after closing last season with a strong push.
For Heiman, he’s going to relish one last high school season to play the sport he’s grown to love and try to lead the team to heights they haven’t experienced before.
“I’ve thought about going into my senior year ever since I was a freshman,” Heiman said. “Now I’m kind of living it.
“I’m really happy with the team we have. We support each other and I’m really excited. … I think this is going to be our best season in awhile. All the pieces have finally come together.”