Riecks already making Waves

Placer grad making a major impact as a freshman at No. 5 Pepperdine
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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When Cory Riecks was looking for a college men's volleyball program to join, Placer High boys coach Robert McNutt played matchmaker. McNutt called his old college coach, Pepperdine University's Marv Dunphy, and said, This is a kid you probably want to have. Dunphy apparently agreed. A true freshman and two-time Sierra Foothill League MVP who graduated from Placer less than a year ago, the 6-foot-8 Riecks has started as an outside hitter in all 17 of Pepperdine's matches this season. The coaches put me there to get me used to high-level college volleyball and just kept me there, Riecks said. According to Riecks, McNutt couldn't have picked a better match for him than Pepperdine. Riecks relishes the opportunity to learn from Dunphy, who has guided the Waves to four national championships in 24 seasons and will serve as a consultant to the U.S. men's Olympic team this summer in Beijing. Nineteen of Dunphy's former players have gone on to play for the U.S. national team. Nine of them played in the Olympics. I have a lot of improving to do, and I think (Pepperdine) is the place for me to do it, Riecks said. Riecks has already proven he can compete at the Division I level, leading the Waves (9-8) to the NCAA's No. 5 ranking. He is second on the Waves in kills (195), third in digs (73) and blocks (6), fourth in service aces (14) and fifth in assists (16). On Feb. 18 Riecks was named the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation's Player of the Week along with Brigham Young middle blocker Russell Holmes. During the preceding week Riecks had a combined 27 kills and an astoundingly high hitting percentage of .512 in wins over Long Beach State and UC San Diego. Riecks spent part of the summer working out with the U.S. junior national team, which helped prepare him for the pace of college play. It was like an introduction to the higher speed of the college game, Riecks said. A lot of the guys I trained with were already freshmen and sophomores in college ” I was one of four high school students who had the privilege of training with them. It opened my eyes to the speed of the game. It's a lot faster than high school or club volleyball. McNutt said Riecks' biggest assets as a volleyball player are his height and his leaping ability. He touches (the wall) at 11-feet-7, McNutt said. (That means) he's 31/2 feet over the net when attacking. Riecks comes from a family of Division I-caliber athletes. His father, Greg, and his mother, Cindy, respectively played water polo and swam for UC Irvine. Riecks' younger sister, Kasey, has signed a letter-of-intent to play basketball at UC Davis next season after an outstanding career at Placer Sports is definitely something my parents inspired me and my sister to get into, Riecks said. Once we got to a higher level, we wanted to get into a more competitive arena, and my parents encouraged that, too. It's great to be able to have someone who's been through (college athletics) to support me and help me make the adjustment. The two youngest members of the Riecks clan are also athletes. Kirby, Cory's youngest sister, is a long-distance runner. Youngest brother Cody is the all-around, every-single-sport-he-can-get-his hands-on athlete who plays baseball, golf and basketball, Cory said. Every weekend it seemed like we were going in four different directions, Cory Riecks said. But as a family, I think athletics is something to bring us closer together. I'm very close with my brother and sisters. Despite his volleyball talents, Riecks is not on a full scholarship at Pepperdine. Though 6-8 athletes usually have no difficulty landing scholarships as basketball players, Riecks gave up basketball after his freshman year at Placer to concentrate on the sport he believes best suits his temperament. The atmosphere around volleyball is different from any sport I've been around, Riecks said. There's more of a laid-back attitude off the court. It's still a competitive game on the court, but off the court it's more my style. McNutt believes Riecks' potential in volleyball is limitless. Cory fits the mold of the future of volleyball ” tall players that jump high, McNutt said. Hopefully he works hard and makes All-America in college and maybe wins a national championship down the line.