WILKES-BARRE — The film never lies.
Ben Rachilla popped in a DVD of match footage from summer leagues and even some of Holy Redeemer’s early regular-season contests in the Wyoming Valley Conference.
“I couldn’t believe it, to be honest,” the Royals’ attacker said. “There’s a huge difference. Having a bigger role made me into a better player. I knew that I had to step up to help our team.”
No doubt, Rachilla did. The Holy Redeemer junior was selected as the 2017 Times Leader Boys’ Volleyball Player of the Year.
“I knew that I had to come into every game with a total effort,” Rachilla said. “But it was different this year because I knew that I had to be on my ‘A’ game every single time. We still had Luke (Nealon) and Matt (Blaum) to help pick up the slack after losing some talented hitters last season. But it was going to be a different feeling.”
Rachilla’s progression from sophomore to junior season might have surprised some. It didn’t shock Holy Redeemer head coach Jack Kablick.
Sure, the junior hit the ball harder. And his defense really improved throughout the 2017 season.
But there wasn’t any doubt in Kablick’s mind. He knew what Rachilla was going to bring each and every single night this season.
“As a sophomore, he was kind of overshadowed by hitters like John Carr, Rob Zbierski and Chris Mennig,” Kablick said. “I told him after the season to oil up his arm because it was going to be him, Luke and Matt getting the bulk of the sets. Mostly, Ben was going to be one of our feature attackers. Last year, he had 118 kills. He had that number early this year.”
It’s just something about the junior year at Holy Redeemer where players seem to break out. And Rachilla kept that tradition going.
He finished with more than 400 kills including tournaments. In WVC play, Rachilla ended with a conference-leading 204 spikes, leading Redeemer to a 12-0 record in league play and the team’s seventh-straight district title.
He was also selected as the conference’s Most Valuable Player and is almost certain to be an all-state player when the team is announced.
“I knew there would be a lot more pressure getting more sets, but I just wanted to play the same way. I just kept swinging. But I knew that more would be expected of me heading into 2017,” Rachilla said.
The biggest difference for Rachilla heading into 2018?
Now, he’s going to be the leader of the Royals.
“I think Ben started to become a leader this year,” Kablick said. “Mike Mohutsky was just a constant leader, but he was right there too. Ben did so much talking in practice that it shocked me, actually. He didn’t say very much as a sophomore. He was the quiet kid on the team.”
Rachilla admitted he won’t tweak much heading into the offseason.
He’s going to continue to swing for the Yorktowne Volleyball Club over the summer. He’ll enter each day with the same attitude and perspective.
“Just being in the gym is so important,” Rachilla said. “When you are there every day, and you work every day, you improve. Your vertical goes up. Your timing improves. You learn how to hit smarter and harder.”
And he’ll also begin to dive deeper into the college recruitment progress.
“Everyone has told me not to rush into anything, and to take my time to make the right decision,” he said. “Hopefully, we will progress some of those talks over the summer, and we will see what happens when the time comes next year.”