Holy Redeemer’s Ben Rachilla named Times Leader Boys Volleyball Player of the Year

By Tom Robinson - For Times Leader
Holy Redeemer’s Ben Rachilla, left, has been named the Times Leader’s 2018 Boys Volleyball Player of the Year. - Tony Callaio file photo | For Times Leader

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.

Holy Redeemer’s Ben Rachilla, left, has been named the Times Leader’s 2018 Boys Volleyball Player of the Year.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_Holy-Redeemer-Blue-Ridge-BVB-1-1.jpgHoly Redeemer’s Ben Rachilla, left, has been named the Times Leader’s 2018 Boys Volleyball Player of the Year. Tony Callaio file photo | For Times Leader
Volleyball led Rachilla through a dream career

By Tom Robinson

For Times Leader

Coach of the Year

John Kablick, Holy Redeemer

Holy Redeemer’s success in volleyball is practically a given, but Kablick makes sure the Royals do not ever slip by keeping them ready for each match within District 2 while exposing them to as much outside competition as possible. The Royals won their eighth straight District 2 title, extending their winning streak against District 2 competition to 85 matches. Holy Redeemer had a true perfect season in the Wyoming Valley Conference, not only going 12-0, but sweeping every match in three straight games and winning those by an average margin of better than 25-14. The Royals advanced to the state quarterfinals in Class 2A before being eliminated.

Michael Williams

Crestwood, Senior

Williams, a setter/outside hitter with excellent serving skills, made the all-star team for the third straight year. He had 82 service aces, more than double that of any other Wyoming Valley Conference players. He also led the conference in total service points (129) while ranking second on the Comets in both assists and kills.

Avery Billings

Tunkhannock, Junior

Billings, a 6-foot-8 middle hitter, led Tunkhannock’s improvement from 3-9 to 8-4 in the conference. He led the WVC with 54 blocks and tied for fifth in kills with a team-high 143 kills.

Evan Turner

Tunkhannock, Senior

Turner was selected for his versatility, contributing to the defense and as an outside hitter. He ranked second on the Tigers in kills, blocks and aces as well as third in digs and service points.

Jared Piontkowski

Holy Redeemer, Sophomore

Piontkowski, a 6-foot-7 sophomore middle hitter, fit right in with the WVC and District 2 champions after a transfer from Nanticoke. He made a team-high 47 blocks and ranked fourth in the conference in both that category and in kills with 148.

Joe Norce

Berwick, senior

Norce, a senior outside hitter, helped the Bulldogs reach the District 2 Class 2A championship match and finish third in the WVC with a 9-3 record. He was tied for fifth in the conference with 143 kills and led the team in digs.

Misael Hernandez

Berwick, junior

Hernandez, a junior libero, was second in digs and fourth in service points while helping the Bulldogs make their second straight state tournament appearance after a decade away.

SECOND TEAM

Joey Burridge, Wyoming Valley West, Sr., Outside hitter

Giacomo Rossi, Wyoming Valley West, Sr., Outside hitter

Everett Fritz, Hazleton Area, Sr., Middle hitter

Zach Evans, Berwick, Jr., Outside hitter

Matt Piontkowski, Holy Redeemer, Sr., Middle hitter

George Beck, Holy Redeemer, Sr., Setter/outside hitter

Reach Times Leader sports at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @TLsports

Reach Times Leader sports at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @TLsports