Reese Devilbiss admitted, "I actually hated volleyball" at one time.
After three straight PIAA boys' volleyball championships at Northeastern, that is no longer the case. Devilbiss is the GameTimePA.com YAIAA boys' volleyball Player of the Year after anchoring a front-line attack in another Class AA state title for the Bobcats.
The 6-foot-3 outside hitter played soccer and basketball when he was introduced to volleyball during middle school. At that point, his only exposure to it came in gym class.
"I thought it was the stupidest thing ever," Devilbiss recalled.
He was approached during a soccer tournament about playing volleyball because of his height. Devilbiss attended a game and met Northeastern assistant George Miller.
"I heard you're playing volleyball," Miller said to him.
"It's too boring," Devilbiss replied.
Miller set up an open gym, and Devilbiss' first team in junior high was coached by Theresa Wilson and Amy Miller, the wives of boys' coaches Matt Wilson and George Miller.
"That kind of went on from there," Devilbiss said. "We all ended up loving it and quit our other sports."
Since Northeastern won its third straight PIAA title this month, Devilbiss and his teammates have turned their attention to summer volleyball in two-on-two formats. In July, Devilbiss will travel to Des Moines, Iowa and participate with USA Volleyball's youth national training team. It will compete for a month and, if Devilbiss makes the cut, he will travel to Argentina for the FIVB Boys' U19 World Championships.
Devilbiss, who verbally committed last year to Ohio State, discussed the future and past in this Q&A. Here's what he had to say.
Three in a row, does it seem unreal?
Yeah. It does. I mean, it was a great feeling. We're glad we were able to accomplish it, and now we're ready for four.
From the trip home to another fire-truck ride, was this one any different?
No, not really. It kind of seemed the same as the last two years, where we stop for a bite to eat on the way home. Everyone is so excited for the fire-truck ride. It never gets old. It's fun to ride around town and see the community.
Did you guys really spend the next day playing volleyball at the park?
Yeah, we did. That's what we do every year. It's our tradition. We'll always take the next Sunday to play doubles. That's what we're always ready for because it's nice out. That's our first taste of the beach and outdoor scene.
How serious does it get?
It gets pretty competitive. There's always some guys, like Jeffrey (Reynolds). He just blocks during the season, but some of the guys get angry. The people who can't pass well, we serve to them. It gets real competitive.
You guys came into this season with high expectations. When was the biggest test of those expectations?
I'd probably say the first time we faced Central (York) during the regular season. That was one of the biggest challenges we faced at that point.
You guys lost to AAA state champ Parkland in the finals of the Koller Classic. That wasn't a bigger test?
Ah, I forgot about that. That, too. But the thing is tournaments are different. I think we did an incredible job, and Brent Williams (who filled in at setter for injured starter Matt Schaeffer) did an incredible job getting us to the finals in one of the biggest tournaments of the state.
Who's the toughest player you've lined up against?
Gosh. I'm not sure. Lee Smith (2014 Ambridge graduate) in high school. He's one of the best. He redshirted this year at Penn State, but I know he's going to do great things out there. It's hard to pick one, especially in the summer, because there's so many incredible players. I might have an answer for you after my trip this summer.
The the youth national team trip? How did that unfold?
I found out around the time of the Suburban match. They (Team USA) post numbers. You don't know who else made the team (numbers serve as a code). It's like your birthday, and they give you a pin number.
Have any expectations for the trip?
I'm not sure if I'm going or not (to Argentina). I'll leave Aug. 14, but I won't know if I'm going until a week and a half before. I'll be in Des Moines, Iowa, from July 14 till up to Aug. 14. From Aug. 14, if I make the actual team, I'll go. If I don't make the team, I'll be home Aug. 14.
We're going to compete in the High Performance Championships, like I did last year (for a regional team), but for Team USA. I think they'll have two teams.
Volleyball has taken me to so many different places, and I think that's the greatest thing about it. I love to travel.
What's the best place you've been to?
Probably Minneapolis. I went to nationals there in seventh grade. That was just a beautiful city.
When did you start playing?
It was the sixth-grade summer going into seventh grade. We started playing and had our Northeastern club team for tournaments. I was 13 at the time and the 14-year-old team coach came up to my parents at the second tournament. She asked if I'd be interested in going to nationals. It kind of went on from there.
You used to play basketball (from fifth grade to seventh grade). Do you miss it?
Sometimes. It wasn't that big of a part of my life. I was timid when I was younger.
Safe to say volleyball helped your confidence?
Yeah, I think so.
Your vertical seems pretty high on a volleyball court. How does that translate, if you try, with dunking a basketball?
I can dunk, but I don't do it that much. I just stay away from that. I'll want to play, and I know (coach Matt) Wilson will be like, "Ugh, slow down."
So, what's your favorite pastime when pried away from volleyball?
I like hiking. You just get out and can see the wildlife. It's a pretty common answer, I feel like. I like to run trails, too.
Beach rock like Jack Johnson and stuff like that. I'm a big acoustic guy.
Have a major for college in mind?
Finance. Accounting or finance.
Just like your coach, Wilson?
Yeah he went for finance, but I enjoy that stuff. People think it's so boring but I don't know what it was about it.
What's the reactions been like a school year after announcing your verbal commitment to Ohio State?
Teachers don't say much, except Donna Burns, who helps with our volleyball program. She's a big Ohio State fan. She has a flag in her room, and it's my home room. That was Buckeye'd out. I've gotten jokes. It's mostly jokes like that.
Contact Matt Goul at 771-2045.