Volleyball has taken Ben Rachilla places he could have never imagined.
Inexperienced in the sport and uninformed about the credentials of the team when he entered Holy Redeemer as a freshman and joined the program, Rachilla leaves it as a two-time Times Leader Player of the Year.
The two-time Class 2A all-state selection by the Pennsylvania Coaches Association was a driving force in making sure Holy Redeemer maintained its lofty status in the sport. Rachilla used the skills he developed while playing for and ultimately leading the Royals to venture into another new territory.
Rachilla is currently beginning his academic career at Quincy University, a college the 6-foot-5 middle hitter acknowledges he may never have heard of if not for the doors volleyball opened for him.
The search for a place to continue the sport he loves and has excelled in led Rachilla to the southwestern Illinois campus, across the Mississippi River from Missouri.
Between earning his two Player of the Year awards as a junior and senior, Rachilla settled on Quincy.
“I was looking through multiple different schools, just as any athlete would,” Rachilla said.
Rachilla started with the idea of finding an NCAA Division I or Division II volleyball school, with a nursing program that had built a positive reputation at a campus that was not too large. Armed with impressive highlight videos to send to college coaches, Rachilla identified about 10 schools, knowing so little about Quincy that he didn’t by any means consider it a favorite to be the ultimate destination.
Video of Rachilla made a positive impression on the Quincy coaching staff and, in turn, the school did the same to him when Rachilla made a trip there.
After also visiting St. Francis of Loretto in state and Lees-McRae University in North Carolina, Rachilla was settled on Quincy.
“I thought everything put together, it was a perfect fit,” Rachilla said last week in a phone interview from Quincy where he was in the process of moving into his dorm. “It worked out very well.”
With college plans settled and a partial Division I athletic scholarship secured, Rachilla made the most of one more high school season.
Rachilla repeated as the Wyoming Valley Conference leader in kills, reached rarified air in surpassing 1,000 kills for his high school career in which he was part of a conference and district championship team that was unbeaten within District 2 each of his four years.
“I’m very proud and blessed that I got to be a part of that whole program, just coming in freshman year and seeing all the stuff that they have done,” said Rachilla, a Mountain Top resident. “I was actually coming in completely blind to the fact that Redeemer had such a good program. I had always gone to school in the area, but I guess I had never read up on the whole school and athletic part of it.”
John Kablick, who has coached the Royals through eight straight district titles, let Rachilla know that he would be a big part of the team’s attack as he entered his last two seasons. The vertical jump that Rachilla began with naturally then added to by making squats and squat jumps a part of his training program made him the perfect player to provide the swing that produced another Holy Redeemer point.
“We’ve had a lot of leaders on our team, who were outspoken and would get in peoples’ faces when they had to, but that’s not his personality,” Kablick said. “He does it quietly and he does it by example.”
Rachilla learned, however, to enjoy celebrating with his teammates in a way that is sometimes unique to the volleyball court.
“You see the people who have been in the program for a few years, you see how they do celebrate,” he said. “It does kind of come naturally, just knowing that you’re all on one side of the court together, you have to work together as a team, you have to have the good pass, the good set and the good swing to be able to execute the play.
“You are one big team when you’re on that side of the net. When it all goes through, the excitement just spreads through the entire team.”
Rachilla also opened up and made sure to spread the word about the program’s history to new players coming into the team.
“I’m very happy to say that I was able to help keep some of that alive through my four years and hopefully, it will continue,” he said.
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