Riverview grad Fisher takes on larger-than-expected role for Penn State volleyball
Volleyball always has come naturally for Penn State freshman Cal Fisher.
Between his mother, Charlotte, who played at Eastern Kentucky and then professionally in Spain, and two older sisters, Hannah (Wheeling Jesuit) and Arden (Robert Morris), who also played collegiately, he has been around the game his entire life.
Fisher, a Riverview grad who played one season at Penn Hills, has had to call on those instincts probably sooner and more often than he expected. A rash of injuries thrust him into a featured role for what traditionally has been one of the strongest men’s volleyball programs in the nation.
“We’ve had seven guys — about 46 feet, 4 inches of human — injured,” Nittany Lions coach Mark Pavlik said. “Through the fall, we really liked how (he) was picking up the game and the physicality of it.
“But you get on the court against the top teams in the country and have to do it every day, a lot of freshmen have never trained or played this long before. The thing I will say with him is he is not afraid to compete. He is not intimidated by anything.”
Through last weekend’s Big Ten/Pac 12 Challenge, Fisher has put up solid numbers for the Nittany Lions (8-10, 5-2 Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association). He has played in 16 of 18 matches (seven starts) and posted 83 kills with a .252 hitting percentage.
He has had three matches of double-digit kills, including a personal-best 12 against Lindenwood in January. He also had 10 kills in a loss to then-No. 4 BYU.
“I don’t think I expected the role I have now,” said Fisher, a 6-foot-3 hitter who plays outside and opposite. “But I put in the work necessary to get here. The biggest adjustment is the tempo and the size of the players.”
Fisher played just that one season at Penn Hills through a cooperative agreement — Riverview doesn’t have a boys team — and spent the rest of his organized playing days competing for Pittsburgh Volleyball Club. But, Pavlik said, he also spent time playing recreationally without a coach scrutinizing his every move.
Pavlik said he believes that has gone a long way toward Fisher’s rapid adjustment to the college level.
“Nothing happens in the game that truly surprises him,” Pavlik said. “The game is probably a little slower for him. Things don’t happen as quickly because he has seen it, been there, done that. I think that’s where ‘Fish’ has an advantage.”
Also helping Fisher’s adjustment is the presence of his friend and longtime Pittsburgh Volleyball Club teammate Canyon Tuman, a freshman from North Allegheny. Tuman, like Fisher, has been forced to play probably more than anticipated, so each can empathize with and help the other.
“It was a change of pace for me and Cal,” Tuman said. “Now, we’re playing with the big boys, and we’re making each other better.”
Fisher figures to keep getting better with more experience and fine-tuning of his technique. Being able to take some lumps while learning on the job, Pavlik said, will help him down the road.
“We’re throwing him into some matches where, in past years, guys wouldn’t have been in those positions,” Pavlik said. “His athletic self-esteem … has not been damaged by playing against guys across the net who have been playing for four years and are bigger, stronger and wiser.”
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .