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As Jarod Pichler played in a club volleyball game at Spooky Nook Sports in December 2015, life was good.
Pichler had just played in front of Arcadia University coach Eli Porr for the first time and it appeared that after his upcoming senior season at York Suburban High School, Pichler would continue his career for the NCAA Division III Knights.
That feeling lasted all of 10 minutes. Porr left the gym and before the coach reached his home he had a text message from Pichler that notified him that the recruit had seriously injured his knee following Porr’s exit from the facility.
Pichler tore his ACL and MCL and he would miss his senior season for a Trojans team that eventually reached the state semifinals. That was bad enough, but the 6-foot, 3-inch outside hitter had to grapple with the idea that his volleyball career might be over after it had just began during his junior year. He might not get a chance to play college ball for the school in Glenside, Montgomery County.
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“It was really hard,” Pichler said. “When it first happened, I knew it was pretty serious when I went down. I didn’t know until a couple days after the full extent, but I knew I definitely messed something up in my knee. I thought I was pretty much going to be done with sports for good.”
Porr, however, believed in the potential he saw in Pichler, and despite the devastating injury, gave him a spot on the Arcadia roster in the program’s first season as a varsity sport. The dedication that Pichler showed in the recovery from his injury led to a successful career for the Knights and launched a post-college future he is proud of.
Once Pichler learned that he still had a spot on the team, his focus turned to the rehab process for his knee injury following surgery. The six-month battle included three months of strenuous exercises and required him to attend physical therapy sessions at 5 a.m. before high school.
“I started to get to work right away and really push through rehab,” Pichler said. “I pushed through rehab pretty hard and probably pushed the boundaries of some stuff a little bit. I was just ready to get back to work and get back to where I was. I knew in order to help the team, I had to be even better than I was before.”
Success on the court: As a freshman, Pichler played a limited role as he regained the faith in his knee and put on muscle in the weight room. His next season saw him start over half the games he appeared in while he doubled the amount of digs he recorded and nearly had twice the kills he had in his first season.
As Pichler’s confidence and skills grew, so did the program’s success. After the Knights struggled in their debut season, the team reached the conference championship game in 2018. In 2019, Arcadia won its conference and reached the NCAA Tournament. Before the 2020 season was canceled in March, the Knights were ranked in the top 10 in NCAA D-III.
“Not everyone gets to experience that,” Pichler said. “We really built it together and we all grew as leaders and players by working together. We got to create what Arcadia volleyball is and that’s something awesome that we will always be able to say that we did.”
Killing it: As a senior, in fewer games than any full season before it, Pichler set a career high in kills with 145, which was third on the Knights. He started almost every game. Porr said if the conference gave out awards, he would have made an all-conference team.
Before his final season, Pichler improved his game during an internship in California. A relative helped set him up with a beach house in Hermosa Beach, which allowed him to play beach volleyball for two hours, five days per week in what is described as the “beach volleyball capital of the world.”
Pichler was a member of the conference’s honor-roll team multiple times, was a member of multiple clubs on campus — including choreographer of the latin dance club — and held a 3.8 grade-point average as a computer science major. He will begin a job as a software developer in Harrisburg after graduation.
Porr said the way Pichler’s career turned out at Arcadia was the best-case scenario, but he wasn’t surprised by all the success he had because of the effort he put in each day.
“He is just a high-achieving kind of guy,” Porr said. “He wasn’t someone that was going to skate by with just doing enough. He was the guy that stayed after practice, came in early and did extra workouts (and) did extra stuff to make sure his knees were healthy.”
Although his final season was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pichler is proud that he even had a college career at all. He had a decision to make when he tore the ligaments in his knee and the results of the sacrifices and dedication he endured along the way showed him that there are no limits on what can be achieved.
“It proves to me and kind of (serves) as an example to anybody that if you really work hard you can accomplish anything, no matter where you start at,” Pichler said. “I started playing my (high school) junior year and by my senior year of college I was a starter on a nationally-ranked college team. So it doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you end up.”
Reach Rob Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.