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Riecks a big hit at Pepperdine

Sophomore playing a pivotal role as Waves roll into the postseason
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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Nothing makes an athlete hungrier for a championship than getting close enough to taste the sweetness of one, only to swallow the bitter fruit of defeat instead. That’s the situation Placer High graduate Cory Riecks is in this season, his second as an outside hitter for the Pepperdine men’s volleyball team. The Waves made it to last year’s NCAA Division I title match, where they fell to Penn State in four hard-fought games. “It’s definitely inspiration,” Riecks said. “You wake up every morning and see silver where there should be gold. “But I got a taste of what it’s like as a freshman to be there. That should help me this year and the next few years.” Pepperdine appears to be a frontrunner for the NCAA crown again this season, and according to Waves coach Marv Dunphy, Riecks is a major reason for that. The Waves (20-4, 18-4 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) were ranked No. 2 in the country as of Monday despite falling to Brigham Young in their regular-season finale last Friday. “He carried a big load for us last year during our run to the Final Four, and he’s carrying an even bigger load for us this year,” Dunphy said. Now a sophomore, the 6-foot-8 Riecks has started every match he’s played in since he came to Pepperdine. This season he’s among the Waves’ leaders in several statistical categories, including kills (227, third on the team), kills per game (2.61, third), service aces (13, second) digs (123, fifth) and total points (266, fourth). Riecks also has 50 blocks and nine assists. While Dunphy says Riecks has improved in every facet of the game since his freshman season, Riecks’ biggest area of improvement is his passing. Riecks had to take on more of the passing load this season when two of the Waves’ key players went down with injuries. “Every aspect of my game can continue to go up,” Riecks said. “Personally, I want to contribute whatever I can to the team. That means going to the gym and getting in extra passing reps if that’s what it takes. “I’m also not the best defender,” he added. “I need to work at being good at the things I need to do.” Riecks chose to attend Pepperdine in part for the chance to learn from Dunphy, who served as a consultant to last year’s gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic men’s volleyball team in Beijing . Though Riecks would love the opportunity to play for the Olympic team down the line, he doesn’t see himself on the roster for the 2012 Summer Games in London . “It’ll be a while,” he said. “There are some really good guys up there right now.” A political science major whose primary area of study is Eastern Asian relations, Riecks is still plotting the course for his future after college. “I’m keeping the options open,” said Riecks, whose sister Kasey is a freshman basketball player at UC Davis. “Law school’s a possibility, but I need to get the GPA higher to keep that a viable possibility. Right now I’m leaning toward getting a master’s and teaching high school history.” For now, though, Riecks wants nothing more than to help Pepperdine earn another shot at a national championship. “I’d like for us to be as good this year as we were at the end of last year, and there’s a possibility that we can be,” Dunphy said. “That’s where our focus is, and that’s where his focus is too.” “The good thing about our conference is that a lot of the top teams in the country, we play on a weekly basis,” Riecks said. “Anything is possible at the end of the year. “Coach Dunphy is always saying it’s not who finishes first or who wins league, it’s who finishes strong. I think we can have the same run that we did last year.”