STROHECKER: Northeastern's Devilbiss headed to Argentina with youth national team
Reese Devilbiss has never been outside the country.
In a little less than a month, he'll begin his senior year at Northeastern High School, but by that point, he'll have a new perspective on life. And an appreciation for at least one other culture in the world.
This past Friday, Devilbiss was named to the 2015 Boys' Youth National Volleyball Team and on Monday, he'll be on his way to Argentina for the 2015 FIVB Boys' Under-19 World Championships. To make the final, 12-man roster, he outlasted a starting field of 24 players, two roster cut-downs and competition against some of the best players in the country, many of which are a year older than him.
There's no part of volleyball that fazes Devilbiss, no matter how new the challenge. So, when the team makes the 25-plus-hour trip to Argentina on Monday, the only concern that Devilbiss might have has nothing to do with the sport.
"I'm not looking forward to the bugs," he said. "I heard there's crazy bugs down there and I'm not ready to mess with those."
It's hardly a debate at this point about Devilbiss' standing as Pennsylvania's best high school boys' volleyball player. He's the best player on the Bobcats, a team that's won three straight PIAA Class AA state titles. And as long as he doesn't suffer any serious injury next year, Northeastern will be a heavy favorite to make it four in a row in 2016.
So, the next step for him to make in his progression as a volleyball player was to test himself on the national level. Devilbiss got the invite to the Boys' Youth National Team back in the winter and since the middle of July, he's been out in Iowa competing with 24 of the best 17 and 18 year olds in the country.
His summer has been nothing short of hectic. After the Bobcats clinched their third straight state title in early June, they then went on to play in USA Volleyball Boys' Junior National Championships in Columbus, Ohio in July. From there, it was off to Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, for the beginning of training camp for the Boys' Youth National Team.
From July 14-20, the team trained against each other, scrimmaging in matches that were being evaluated by the coaching staff. The staff is full of top-notch Division I college coaches, beginning with Stanford's Ken Shibuya, Loyola Chicago's Kris Berzins and UCLA's Brad Keller. Most recently, the staff hired Kevin Burch as the team statistician, who is on the coaching staff at Ohio State, where Devilbiss is committed to play in college. Following that week of training, the team headed to the High Performance Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, where, after that, the team was trimmed down to 20 players on July 26. The team stayed that way until late last week when the staff made its final roster decision and selected the 12 players who would represent the U.S. in Argentina.
Devilbiss was the only player selected to the original roster of 24 from Pennsylvania and is one of three boys on the team going to Argentina that hasn't graduated high school yet. The opportunity to tryout for the team, let alone make it, was anything unlike he'd ever experienced before. Prior to this summer, he'd only ever played with the kids on his high school team. Now, he's playing with kids from all over the country and, soon, against players all over the world. Yet, he never doubted himself for a second that he didn't belong.
"I don't have a big head here, but, I thought I had a pretty good shot of making it," Devilbiss joked. "I know what I'm capable of and my work ethic is pretty strong and I'm one of those people that will give everything I can to be where I want to be and have everything how I like it."
Just in the month that Devilbiss has been playing with the team, he's seen the impact that playing at this level has on his game. The team's daily schedule consists of two practice sessions, something that's forced Devilbiss to improve both his physical and mental approach to the game.
He said the team talks on a regular basis about grinding down its opponents and it starts by going through the mental grind of daily two-a-days. After the team flies to Argentina on Monday, it'll have the next few days to get in any final preparation before beginning play on Friday, Aug. 14 against Turkey.
Perhaps the hardest part about this experience is over for Devilbiss. He's made the final roster, now it's just about playing volleyball to the best of his abilities. There isn't anything in the world - literally - that can throw him off his game.
Except maybe those bugs.
Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker.