Nate Miller

Lancaster Bible College's Nate Miller, a Warwick product, moves to hit the ball during a match this season. Miller, who has a team-best 296 kills through this weekend’s matches, is one of 10 Lancaster County players on the Chargers’ roster. 

The seniors on the Lancaster Bible College men’s volleyball team could not have predicted what they were getting themselves into when they took the floor as freshmen for the Chargers four seasons ago.

Possibly, the team’s success rate in the season prior to their arrival had no impact on their decision to play volleyball at LBC.

One thing was certain, though.

Those freshmen, seniors on this season’s Chargers team, were among the catalysts that steered a team that was 1-26 in the season before they arrived to one that is coming off a conference championship and is ranked 11th in the nation in NCAA Division III.

“I have a lot of respect for the guys who committed that year because we were recruiting in the middle of that 1-26 season and somehow they bought into being here at LBC,” Chargers coach Jade Brubaker said of Josh Rotz, Garyd Martin, Nick Wesley and Daniel Kreider.

Whether it was the LBC education that drew them or the chance to start right away, Brubaker was glad to have them. For one thing, those freshmen helped with team numbers, after that 1-26 team featured just seven players.

Along with going 7-23 during the current seniors’ freshman season, there was also a culture change afoot.

“It was probably a mix of players who were responsible for it,” said Kreider, a Lampeter-Strasburg grad, who had little prior volleyball experience before arriving at LBC. “Sky (Woelkers), Derrick (Bigley), Kasey (Gentry) and then the current seniors really drove the new mentality.”

That new mentality turned a three-month volleyball season into one that now goes year-round. The Chargers, with an infusion of new recruits that included setter Kaleb Ansell and outside hitter Kole Horst, reeled off a 25-9 mark two seasons ago.

“I think the upperclassmen had experienced those lean years and they could taste that we were getting better,” said Horst, a Garden Spot grad. “We wanted to be the best we could be. It helps when you have guys you respect encouraging you.”

Horst, who is one of 10 Lancaster County players on the 22-man roster, was taking a jump-start course at LBC as a senior in high school. He made one recruiting visit and didn’t have to make another.

“I thought the players and the coach were awesome,” he said. “I knew some of the guys from the (Lancaster-Lebanon) League who were here, like Garyd Martin (Lancaster Mennonite). I had been to some LBC matches and knew the guys were fun. I didn’t really think about the (7-23) record because I just wanted to play volleyball.”

The Chargers followed their successful 2017 season by going 24-5 last season, one that included a North Eastern Athletic Conference title and a trip to the NCAA D-III Tournament quarterfinals.

Last season also featured the arrival of two key players, Nate Miller and Kurt Maysilles, both Warwick grads and both former PIAA Class 3A all-stars. Both players started college elsewhere but found their way to LBC and onto the team.

Miller, a 6-foot-5-inch right side, led the team in kills with 498 last season and was named the NEAC Player of the Year.

“Nate came in as a great offensive player but he has put the work in to be a better defensive player, to be a student of the game,” Brubaker said. “But he also has the mentality that he has room to improve and get better.”

Although a couple of seasons removed from competitive volleyball, Maysilles remained active in the sport by playing outdoors and in church leagues. But his arrival at LBC brought a position change, from setter to libero.

“That was a shock early,” Maysilles said. “But I like playing it.”

Brubaker said Maysilles brings a steadiness to the team.

“We know Kurt will be solid on serve-receive and make some good plays defensively,” Brubaker said. “When he’s on and getting balls to the setter, it takes us to a different level.”

The Chargers — now 5-0 in the NEAC and 19-4 overall after Saturday’s 3-2 win over Wells and 3-0 sweep of John Jay — are heading into the home stretch of the season, with an eye to the conference playoffs and beyond. Their biggest tests to date included matches against the Carthage, ranked No. 1 in D-III at the time and Stevens (No. 4) and Kean (No. 3). All three were losses but added to the team’s experience.

“Against Stevens, we found that we could compete with them but once we came off the gas pedal a little bit, they finished us,” said Miller, who has a team-best 296 kills and has been named NEAC Player of the Week four times this season. “They had another gear that we just didn’t have yet. Against Kean, they got in our heads a little bit but the second two games were close. They served incredibly. But there are things we can tweak a little bit.”