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Norwin graduate Supko eyes NCAA Tournament bid

| Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Pfeiffer University athletics
Pfeiffer University volleyball player Joe Supko sets the ball during a match during the 2013 season.

Joe Supko and the Pfeiffer University men's volleyball team have some unfinished business they'd like to take care of in 2014.

The Rams won the Conference Carolinas championship both in 2012 and 2013. In both seasons, however, the Falcons were left out of the NCAA Division II Tournament because the conference champion didn't earn an automatic bid.

That changes in 2014, as the NCAA will grant an automatic bid to the CC winner. Supko and his teammates have their eyes on that long-awaited prize.

“It'll be nice to know that it just doesn't end, that there's more and more we can do,” said Supko, a 2011 Norwin High School graduate.

“We definitely want to win our conference and get out there and show our conference shouldn't be looked down upon (and show) we are a team to be reckoned with,” he added.

First-year Pfeiffer coach Paul Lawson believes Supko is a force to be reckoned with in his own right. As a sophomore, the 6-foot-4 middle blocker finished second on the team with 60 total blocks, including 12 solo blocks. He also finished fifth on the team with 81 kills.

“Joe's an incredibly strong individual,” Lawson said. “He's put together like a brick house. I think physically he's probably my strongest player. (While blocking), he's really able to read and get on the ball. ... The harder the person may be hitting, the quicker he's going to be able to block the ball down on you. He's really good at reading that.

“With hitting, I'd say his volleyball IQ has gotten even higher because he's reading where the blocker is set up and where the libero may be, and he's cutting back. He's reading those things very well. I'm really enjoying right now watching him do that.”

For Supko, his sophomore season represented a big jump from his freshman campaign, when he played in just one match.

“At first it was a little nerve-wracking, but now I know I can play with the big teams and big games out there,” Supko said. “It's just (a matter of) going out there and performing like we all know we can.”

Supko said he worked more on his blocking during the offseason in the hopes of getting even better at it this season.

After the Rams' top three kill leaders from 2013 graduated, Supko will be expected to take on an even greater role this season.

“The leadership out of the guys that have been there, like Joe and (junior setter) David Specian and the upperclassman guys will be basically to help the young guys do what we are trying to accomplish,” Lawson said. “One thing I've noticed (is) they have taken all the new guys under their wings. It's really impressive. They're a very tight-knit group of kids. They hang out quite a bit.”

“We're a young team, but there's a lot of talent,” Supko said. “It's nice seeing a lot of it come together during the fall season. It'll be exciting to play on the court with everybody.”

Pfeiffer, which is based in Misenheimer, N.C., will begin its season Jan. 21 with a match against conference foe Limestone. The Rams will travel to Pennsylvania in February to play St. Francis (Pa.) and Penn State.

“It's nice to come back up,” Supko said. “I have a lot of family and friends that go to those games.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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