The New Oxford junior has been playing the game for just over two years
Alex Neiderer can't explain why he likes volleyball so much.
The New Oxford junior didn't pick up the sport until his freshman year, unless you count the games he used to play with friends at his local swim club. But two years later, Neiderer plays volleyball year-round and considers it his passion.
He just isn't sure how to put his love for the sport into words.
"I don’t know, I just knew it (was my niche)," Neiderer said. "I’d played recreationally but I never thought anything big would happen. Went out on a limb, went out for the team and loved it.”
Now going into his third season of competitive volleyball, Neiderer has become New Oxford's biggest leader and its top returning player. And he'll be relied upon heavily this season, after the Colonials gain a new head coach in Rachel Booth after losing 11 seniors from last year's 8-6 squad.
The 6-foot-1 outside hitter says he's ready for the challenge. While he admits it hasn't been easy getting the team's new players acclimated to the varsity level, he enjoys being the guy younger players look up to.
“I love it," Neiderer said. “It motivates me to keep pushing to try and be the best, and it pushes me to do good against my teammates to bring them up another level.”
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Both Booth and former New Oxford coach Jason Barshinger describe Neiderer as someone who leads by example. Barshinger, who now coaches the men's volleyball team at Wilson College, said Neiderer was already one of the team's most respected players when he was a sophomore.
"You would hear a lot of seniors say, 'Look at his passing, he's a sophomore and he’s dominating,'" Barshinger said. "To have a freshman and a sophomore in his second year who could continually push and drive the other players was a huge thing."
Neiderer credits those seniors with helping him improve and learn the game. It still surprises him that many of them drew motivation from him
That's because when Neiderer first joined the volleyball team in 2013, he wasn't sure how quickly he was catching on. But his mindset changed when Barshinger approached him two weeks into the season, asking how good Neiderer wanted to become and offering to push him to get there.
That was all Neiderer needed to hear to make volleyball a top priority.
“I was shocked," Neiderer said. "Didn’t know much about the game. Didn’t know much about passing, hitting technique, anything. (Coach Barshinger) said that to me and it woke me up. Made me push myself.”
The junior has become dedicated enough that he also plays for the Rising Phoenix Volleyball Club during the offseason. Still, with a part-time job at Wendy's and plenty of schoolwork on his plate, Neiderer can't devote too much time to volleyball.
He also hasn't always had an easy time at home. According to Neiderer, his mother and father separated recently, and his father now no longer lives with the rest of the family.
As difficult as that experience was, Neiderer remains very close with his mother and two older brothers.
"We’ve grown a lot together," Neiderer said. "It’s tough because I’m at school and they’re at work. And then I’m at practice and work and they’re home. I get home, and by then they’re almost in bed. It’s tough."
Although its difficult for him to maintain his schedule and spend time with his family, Neiderer said he's glad he's "not just sitting at home eating a bag of chips." He has aspirations to play volleyball in college and wants to make sure his grades and performance on the court don't suffer.
Barshinger, who still coaches the Colonials junior for Rising Phoenix, said Neiderer has the potential to play Division II and could possibly play Division I if he continues to grow.
"Oh my gosh, yes, I believe that he has ability to (play in college)," Barshinger said. "If he keeps working out and builds his athletic ability, the sky is the limit for what he whats to do."
Right now, though, Neiderer is more focused on New Oxford's current season. After improving by seven wins last season, the Colonials are again rebuilding with a young roster.
But Neiderer still has personal goals for himself.
“I just want to win and want to be the best," Neiderer said. "And help others learn the game and improve every day."
YAIAA Division I: Northeastern
YAIAA tournament: Northeastern