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West Shamokin's Rocco adds volleyball to endeavors

| Thursday, April 4, 2013, 1:01 a.m.
Bill Shirley | For the Leader Times
West Shamokin's Anthony Rocco celebrates with a fist pump after scoring a point against St. Joseph during a match on Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at West Shamokin High School.
Bill Shirley | For The Leader Times
West Shamokin's Anthony Rocco returns a shot during a match against St. Joseph on Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at West Shamokin High School.

For a brief moment during Tuesday night's boys volleyball home match against St. Joseph, West Shamokin senior Anthony Rocco believed in the potency of his skills.

He scored back-to-back kills that spurred a Wolves comeback early in the first match of his volleyball career. His confidence climbed. Already a golf, basketball and baseball star, he wondered: Could he shine in volleyball too?

Rocco, who finished with six kills and two blocks, never reached alpha status on the court. But he left West Shamokin's gym certain about the vastness of his athletic versatility.

The senior intends to make the most of his final weeks as a high school sports standout. An opportunity to play baseball at Division III Mt. Aloysius College lies ahead — and there's a possibility basketball could enter the mix, too. But before his sports life grows more serious, Rocco, through volleyball, will embrace a new challenge that entails few if any negative consequences.

“I've taken steps forward; but I don't think there were many steps I could take back,” said Rocco, who earned playing time as an outside hitter. “I told them on the first day I practiced, ‘This is as raw as it's going to get.' ”

Rocco, a three-plus-year starter in each of his three other sports, remains fully committed to the West Shamokin baseball team, which he led in batting average (.414) and slugging (.569) last season. He's the team's ace on the mound, too.

When the baseball and volleyball schedules clash, Rocco will side with his top sport — an agreement understood by both baseball coach Dave Powers and volleyball coach Scott Craig.

The poor weather this spring has allowed Rocco to spend some extra time on the court. Baseball and volleyball both have practiced in the gym right after the school day ends, so Rocco gets a round or two in the batting cage, throws for a bit, and then moves over to the volleyball court.

Rocco cleared the arrangement with athletic director Tom McClaine and both coaches before he seriously committed to the volleyball team.

“I love Coach Craig for letting me do this,” Rocco said. “And these guys welcomed me with open arms. I told coach, ‘Sit the team down and tell them not to hold anything back and find out what they think. Because if they don't want me here, I don't want to come in and make anyone mad.' ”

The temptation to play volleyball existed for years, said Rocco, who developed an appreciation for the sport through gym class and in-school tournaments. The now-or-never reality of senior year led him to sign up. His lack of star potential hardly mattered.

“I'm just a role player,” Rocco said. “It's probably going to get me ready for college, because I'm going to go in there as a role player.”

A role player in how many sports at Mt. Aloysius remains a question for Rocco. Baseball is a given. Rocco said the basketball coaches, who also hold administrative positions at the college, have discussed the possibility of letting him join the team.

“I told them, ‘That'd be unreal. If you could do anything like that, there'd be no doubt in my mind that I'd come here,'” Rocco said.

After he won one of Mt. Aloysius' $48,000 Mercy Presidential Scholarships in March, Rocco no longer worried as much about recruiting pitches he heard from other schools, including Waynesburg (for baseball, basketball and golf), Penn State Behrend (baseball, basketball), Penn State Altoona (basketball), Thiel (baseball) and La Roche (golf).

“When the basketball stuff started, I was like, ‘This is kind of my favorite sport. I really love this sport,' ” Rocco said. “And my dad was like, ‘I know you do, kid, but you've got to go where the money is.' ”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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