Taking one for the team
SLIPPERY ROCK — Piling up numbers on the volleyball court means a lot to Virginia Recchia.
Winning matches is more important to her. So when the Slippery Rock High School senior was approached about switching from setter to libero this season, she was amenable to it.
“When we talked, I don’t know if it’s something she wanted to do,” second-year Rockets coach Brandon Ferrier said. “But it was something she was capable of doing and it would make us a better team.
“Virginia knew both of those things, too.”
Recchia played libero for her club team — the Thunder in Youngstown — last off-season.
“That prepared me for the change,” she said. “I grew comfortable with the libero position. It was challenging and the move helped turn our team around. We’ve had some freshmen come up who have really helped us.”
A four-year starter for the Rockets, Recchia had 909 digs and 980 assists in her high school career entering the team’s regular season finale. Slippery Rock was around .500 her first two years with the program. The Rockets finished 5-12 last year.
The team is headed to the playoffs with a 12-5 record right now. Slippery Rock has one regular season match remaining.
“We needed a defensive presence, someone who could add aggressiveness as a libero,” Ferrier said. “Virginia is perfect for that position. She’ll get her knees scraped up, she’ll bleed, she’ll do just about anything to save the point.
“I worry about her sometimes. Virginia will sacrifice her body, run hard into the bleachers to save a rally. She’s an extremely aggressive player.”
Anora Robare, a junior, stepped in as the Rockets’ starting setter this season. She did not play volleyball as a freshman.
“She was a little under-developed as a player last year, just coming back to the sport,” the coach said of Robare. “She played club and travel ball over the summer and came back ready to step into that role.
“The whole team just came together more. Virginia is very good as a setter, too, but we needed her at libero. That was the missing piece for us.’
While it appears Recchia will not reach the 1,000-plateau in digs — she still has a shot at assists — she’s more excited about the Rockets’ success as a team.
“To get to 1,000 in both categories would have been nice, especially for my parents to be able to say they have a daughter who did that, but I’m proud of where my numbers are at,” Recchia said. “Assists are harder to get because you can only get one of those per rally. You can get multiple digs during a rally.
“If we don’t let stuff get in our heads during a match and we play together, our team could go a long way this year.”
Ferrier pointed out that Slippery Rock hasn’t had many four-year starters in volleyball through the years.
“If those numbers aren’t school records, they’re pretty darn close,” he said.
Recchia has been playing volleyball since second grade. She attended a Catholic school near Pittsburgh and played basketball, soccer and volleyball there.
Volleyball became her sport of choice. She carried that into sixth grade, when she entered the public school system at Slippery Rock. Her family lives in Portersville.
“I was better at volleyball and I loved the sport,” Recchia said. “I just wanted to get better at it.”
She’s played for the Thunder club team the past four years. Recchia will continue her academic and volleyball career at Pitt-Bradford next year. She plans to major in nursing.
Pitt Bradford has been to the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC) championship game three times in the past five seasons, winning the league title in 2016 and 2018.
“It’ll be different for her, getting used to a whole new team again,” Ferrier said. “But Virginia stepped into a leadership role with our younger players this year. She has become a mentor to them.
“She’ll step up and perform just fine at the next level.”