Riverview grad Fisher flourishes for Robert Morris volleyball team
Arden Fisher adapted quickly to Division I college volleyball last season, but the former Riverview star outside hitter admits she was far from perfect at the net for Robert Morris.
Fisher brought a new type of intensity and power to the Colonials' program and continues her ascent to the Northeast Conference's elite. The spike-smashing sophomore, though, wants to bring a more polished game to the court, one that has thought, not just blunt force, behind each hit.
Her progression as a front-line standout has been one part natural talent, two parts refinement of skills.
“There's always room for improvement,” said the 5-foot-11 Fisher. “I am learning to be smarter with the ball. I am making a lot less errors and dumb mistakes. Last year, if the ball hit off the net, I would just swing as hard as I could and maybe touch hands, and the ball would go out. This year, I am trying to keep it in play.”
Don't get her wrong: Fisher still winds up and delivers. She is the point of the sword with a team-high 230 kills and is second on the team with 327 digs. Fisher has enough double-doubles to make the basketball team envious. She averages 2.81 points per set for the Colonials (13-15, 11-1).
Robert Morris plays a key match Saturday at St. Francis (N.Y.), one of two left in the regular season. The Colonials, in second place behind Long Island, need to win the NEC outright to host the conference tournament. A run in the NCAA playoffs also could lie ahead, and Fisher could play a key role.
“As she gains strength and experience, she will be a very tough player to stop going forward,” Robert Morris coach Dale Starr said. “The ultimate compliment for a player is when an opposing coach tailors a game plan to try to stop her, and she ends up putting forth a double-double performance and dominating the match. She has done that several times this year, and I expect her to do it several more times in the next two years.
“She is the most naturally talented player I have ever had the pleasure of coaching.”
Fisher, an All-NEC second-teamer last season, led the Colonials as a freshman with 271. Not that she cares about stats.
“I just love playing,” she said. “I don't keep track of stats or anything. I don't even know who we play next. Just tell me where to go next.”
Starr calls Fisher a gym rat. She kindly accepts the label.
“I was born in the gym, and I always lived there,” Fisher said with a laugh. “I would always pepper with my older sister and younger brother.”
The natural talent that Fisher possesses comes from her pedigree. Her mother, Charlotte (Gillespie) was a standout at Norwin in the early 1980s before starring at Eastern Kentucky, where she broke Ohio Valley Conference records. She played professionally for a short time in Spain.
Arden said her mother is a fine go-to for advice, but the pair rarely delves deeply into volleyball talk.
Charlotte did notice one thing about her daughter's progression.
“She told me I look really strong when I hit,” Arden Fisher said. “I had never lifted a weight until I got (to RMU). That has helped me a lot, too.”
Fisher, who went to Oakland Catholic for two years before transferring to Riverview, dealt with a minor setback last month when she sprained her left ankle during a practice, landing awkwardly against a pole pad, and missed a match against Farleigh Dickinson.
“That was the first time that ever happened to me,” she said. “I have never had any ankle problems. The recovery was slow. I missed a match on a Saturday but played in out next one on that Sunday.”
Groin pulls also hindered Fisher, but she came back quickly.
“Coaches thought that was from my defensive stance,” she said. “I remembered (the injuries) more in practice, but I seemed to forget them once games got going.”
While he is impressed with Fisher's inherent physical skills, Starr gives more of a nod to her can't-be-taught instincts.
“She makes plays for us that make us as a staff just scratch our heads,” the coach said. “I think Arden is beginning to figure out just how good she can be. The things that make her a special player start and end with her passion for the game of volleyball. She truly loves to play the game. All summer long she played in adult leagues, sand leagues and open gyms throughout Pittsburgh against college players and male college players alike.”
Starr said Fisher is the team's best passer.
“Her touch on the ball and ball control ability is something I have not seen in my 17 years as a college coach,” Starr said. “She reads the game extremely well, and I believe is just scratching the surface of her talent.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.