Coming of age - LancasterOnline: Sports

Coming of age

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Posted: Monday, March 26, 2012 8:06 pm | Updated: 3:09 pm, Mon Jan 20, 2014.

The bandage on Josiah Hershberger's chin indicates two things.

One, while being a strong hitter at the net, Hershberger is not adverse from hitting the floor on the back row to make a dig, thus the scrape on his chin.

And two, he and his Manheim Central teammates are out to take the next step this season, at leagues, districts and states.

The season for the Barons and the rest of the Lancaster-Lebanon Boys' Volleyball League gets started tonight.

Hempfield is the defending league and District Three Class AAA champs, but they may be coming back to the pack a bit after sizable graduation losses.

The key word there is "may" because the Black Knights just claimed their own tournament championship this past weekend against decent competition from around the state.

Hempfield will look to fend off Penn Manor, Warwick and Ephrata to retain its Section One crown.

The Section Two race should be a good one. Despite having a couple of key players graduate, the Barons return a solid team. They will be tested by Lancaster Mennonite, which lost just one starter, Garden Spot and Elizabethtown.

Hershberger will certainly be a key for the Barons. The junior middle hitter (right-handed, 6-foot-4) came of age last season and was named to the PIAA Class AA Fab 40 All-State list.

While his size alone might indicate his value on the volleyball court, there is more to being a good player than height.

"Josiah has really had the work ethic since day one," said Barons coach Craig Dietrich. "It was just a matter of having the conversation with him and telling him that he can be special if he puts in the work off the court as well as on the court. He would probably tell you that he's a work in progress."

Hershberger recorded 257 kills last season along with 78 blocks. He had a .326 hitting percentage.

He was introduced to volleyball by his cousin, Jay Stauffer, who was a standout at Hempfield and later played for Penn State. When Hershberger got to high school, he thought about playing tennis but a classmate convinced him to try out for the volleyball team.

He made the varsity as a freshman and started in Central's first match. It didn't take him long to realize that with a little hard work, he could excel.

In order to prep for this season, he played in several two-on-two tournaments, which enabled him to hone aspects of his game like ball control. This season, instead of being subbed for on the back row, Hershberger will stay on the court for the entire rotation.

"I think it gave him a lot of confidence," Dietrich said of Hershberger's two-on-two experience. "When there is only you and another person out on the court, you learn you have to rely on your own skills and those of the other person. It's working around the block and hitting the spots on the floor the same way as if it's six on a side."

Many times, Hershberger's partner in those two-on-two battles was the Barons' setter, Robbie Lawyer. There is a connection between setter and hitter that Hershberger is looking forward to rekindling this season.

"Having Robbie back at setter is huge," Hershberger said. "That gives me an advantage over other middles who change setters all the time. I love having a setter that I know so well and him me."

Hershberger won't be able to sneak up on teams this season, meaning he'll face some double and triple blocks. To counter those efforts, he'll have to play smarter.

"When you look at special players like Sean Sangrey and Sean Snyder, even when they got doubled and tripled, they still found a way to have the ball hit the floor," Dietrich said. "Josiah definitely has the athletic talent to go over the block and around the block. It's a matter of seeing that and processing the decision."

Hershberger's goal and that of his team is to move beyond what they accomplished last season when they advanced to the L-L final but lost to Hempfield, advanced to the semifinals in districts and lost to Lancaster Mennonite (in a five-game match) and lost to eventual AA state champ Deer Lakes in the first round of states.

"I was really frustrated after last season because I knew we could have done better," Hershberger said. "We were so close against LMH in districts. We want to go further than we have before. It's the goal of everyone on the team."

kfreeman@lnpnews.com

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