For Patrick Mehlbaum and the gang, the spring volleyball season started months earlier.
“We were preparing from very early in the school year, trying to make sure that we were all comfortable playing with each other,” the Pennridge senior said. “Knowing someone has your back if the ball goes over you or just out of your reach is incredibly important, and it’s what allows teams to run plays.
“We practiced new setups to play to our strengths and minimize our weaknesses,” he said, “and we kept a strong team mentality. Much of our goal setting was about taking responsibility and staying positive. On a personal level, I was trying to work on my fast hits due to my height.”
The shutdown prevented Pennridge from showing what it could do on a volleyball court this spring. But that didn’t diminish the team’s drive and chemistry.
“My teammates are people that I’ve known since before freshman year,” Mehlbaum said. “They are easily my best friends, so I was with them a lot in school, but I’ve missed playing with my team so much.”
Complete player >> Mehlbaum had rounded out his skills tremendously going into his senior year.
“Pat is a complete player and established himself as a starter,” coach Dave Childs said.
The early weeks of the shutdown were rough.
“I have been itching to play volleyball,” Mehlbaum said, “but we have yet to get together due to social distancing guidelines.”
His passion for the sport grew with each passing year. “I’ve said since freshman year to anyone who’d listen that I would play volleyball in place of school if I could: hard, fast-paced, intense volleyball every day,” Mehlbaum shared. “In my 10 years of playing sports, I have never played a game like volleyball – it is so incredibly rewarding. My favorite thing in volleyball personally is getting a fast middle hit – best feeling in the world.”
Mehlbaum kept busy during the down time. In fact, he researches the stock market. He also started more projects to learn cybersecurity on his way to college.
He treasures his time on the court at Pennridge, especially being able to earn a varsity starting position.
“Starting on varsity was my goal when I started, and playing as a starter on varsity last year really meant a lot to me,” he said. “It shows and proves to myself that I’ve improved enough from where I started.
“Playing for Pennridge is extremely special to me. When I went to tryouts freshman year, I didn’t tell any of my friends, I thought I’d be made fun of honestly. I soon found out that this wasn’t going to be the case, and I was surprised to see some of my best friends that I’d known at the time for over five years through Scouts there.”
Mehlbaum is headed to RIT in the fall. They don’t have a men’s volleyball team but do offer club teams.
“I intend to play heavily,” Mehlbaum said. “I’d be devastated if I was unable to play volleyball for at least the next few years.”
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