Luke Ball shows heart during North Catholic boys volleyball team’s championship run

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Sunday, July 30, 2023 | 1:35 PM


Winning a WPIAL championship in any sport is difficult. Injuries, fatigue, a challenging schedule or other extenuating circumstances can stand in the way of hoisting a trophy at the end of the season.

While talent is always needed on a successful team it is nothing without the strength to push through the challenges that are bound to appear. The North Catholic boys volleyball team fell right into line with other championship programs this spring, capturing the school’s first WPIAL Class 2A title by overcoming hurdles and adversity throughout the campaign.

One player in particular, Luke Ball, knows all about adversity in life. The recently graduated middle hitter was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a condition where the left side of the heart is underdeveloped at birth causing the need for a heart replacement at some point in life depending on the complexity of the condition.

The condition restricted some of his athletic pursuits as he was only allowed to play T-ball as a child, and needed his parents to run the bases for him.

On Dec. 29, 2010, 6-year-old Luke underwent heart replacement surgery.

The call came at 4 a.m., letting Luke and his family know a replacement heart had been found. By 1:30 p.m. he was in surgery waiting for the heart to arrive, and by 5 it was beating inside of him.

Luke’s mother and future coach Stacie Ball said, “A rough 24 hours followed, very touch and go.” But after less than two weeks Luke was back on his feet walking around.

After a short stint in rehab to try and regain gross motor skills, Luke was back to athletics with a newfound drive.

“He kinda went crazy cause it was like a newfound energy, a newfound life,” Stacie Ball said. “He started to play baseball, basketball, soccer and eventually got into volleyball.”

Volleyball stuck with Luke, following in his older siblings’ footsteps by playing for their mom on the North Catholic varsity volleyball team. Stacie Ball started the program originally as a club eight years ago before officially becoming a WPIAL team two years later. The program has seen much success in its short stint, making the WPIAL playoffs every year and advancing to the semifinals or better in the last three seasons, winning a district title this year and finishing 15-5.

Luke played a key role in the Trojans’ success, earning All-WPIAL honors despite the lingering effects of heart surgery at a young age.

“Throughout the years I was able to work around it so I certainly needed more water to stay hydrated because I quickly got tired and less energy a little bit so I took a little bit more breaks,” he said.

Luke wasn’t the only one having to deal with these struggles as his mom was sitting courtside every game. Coach Ball said she never had a problem coaching her sons as they all worked hard even with her pushing them.

“Initially my husband and I were very worried for him, but as he has taken on every new challenge he has amazed us with his strength and how well he takes care of his body,” she said.

Luke said he never let his health conditions impact his game. He hopes to keep playing at the intramural level when he attends Ohio State in the fall.

“I worked really hard post-transplant to make sure that I had no limitations compared to everyone else and play the best I can to not let my team down or myself down,” he said.

As one of only two seniors on a young team, he certainly came through for a squad that beat every opponent in the WPIAL playoffs in straight sets en route to a title.

Eventually, Luke will need another heart as doctors estimated his replacement to last 10 years, but he’s still going strong after nearly 13 years.

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