New recruits should help Flames put away competitive rivals
May 10, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
This past season, Liberty University's men's volleyball team came up two points short of upending multiple opponents in tournament match play.
Head coach Bryan Rigg believes the players he has recruited to join next year's team will play pivotal roles in swinging similarly tight contests in the Flames' favor.
One such impact player is 6-foot-4 middle hitter Josiah "Si" Hershberger, who committed to Liberty after his junior season at Manheim Central when he earned all-Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class AA District Three first-team status with 503 kills (better than 25 per match) and 106 blocks.
"When he came to practice with our team last year as a junior, he was the best player on the court," Rigg said. "It will be a transition for him, but he will be a standout."
One of the top-rated public school middle hitters in the state of Pennsylvania, Hershberger is blessed with a 32-inch vertical leap, making him a formidable blocker as well as potent spiker.
"He's obviously a superior hitter and can play all around," Rigg said. "He passes and serves really well, but where he's really going to make a big difference is up at the net, so we're excited about that."
His versatility at the net should translate well to the college game.
"Middle hitter's my strength, but I can play anywhere on the court, on the front row," Hershberger said. "I'm able t.o hit out of the middle, help outside, and add on the defensive side with blocking, so that creates a different point of view for other teams to plan for, not just one dimension."
Hershberger's ability as a vocal floor leader impressed Rigg as well.
"From talking with him, I can tell that he's eager to get us over the hump," Rigg said. "He wants to win a national championship in his time at Liberty. He has a great mentality and great physical attributes to go with it and I think he can be that finisher we're looking for."
He is looking forward to laying the foundation for the Flames' future success as well as the fellowship he will share with his teammates that will help improve their on-court communication.
"It will be awesome to go down there and have the volleyball team experience," said Hershberger, who has played against current Liberty libero Josiah Williams, a former setter at Pennsylvania rival Garden Spot High School. "I'm looking forward to having a good friend base on campus, forming a good team bond that we can take forward and having a lot of team chemistry."
Rigg said all of the pieces of the puzzle are coming together for the Flames to compete in the South Region of the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, after being swept in the Division I bracket of the tournament they hosted in the new Schilling Center this spring.
"In the three years that I've been here, the team has been made up of whoever came out for tryouts," Rigg said. "It's going to be a completely different team next year. It will be the first year we've actually hand-picked a roster and put the best team we can put out on the court."
Mike Ragan, an outside hitter who plays in the Northern Virginia Volleyball Association, also has committed to play for the Flames and Rigg expects a few new on-campus recruits to emerge as starters.
"Two of them, we spotted on the beach courts and I hunted them down," he said. "I'm excited, we're going to be increasing our height by a few inches, increasing our athleticism, everything."
Rigg would like to see Liberty bump up from the IAAA to the IA bracket of next spring's National Collegiate Volleyball Federation Collegiate Club Volleyball National Championships, which would rank it as one of the top 20 teams in the country.
"That's a pretty reasonable goal," he said.