By Drew Karpen
April 20, 2013 7:00 a.m. —
They went from competing against each other for the District 10 title to donning the same uniform to attempt to win a Division I men’s volleyball national championship.
That is the story behind five Crawford Country volleyball players for the past eight years.
Maplewood’s Nick Bancroft, Saegertown’s Kyle Beatty and Connor Shorts, Cochranton’s Adam Roche and Meadville’s Adam Barba went from the biggest rivals on the court to setting each other up for kills and blocking for one another on the St. Francis University volleyball team.
Four year’s ago Bancroft, Beatty and Roche decided to pursue their collegiate volleyball careers, but little did they know they would share the experience together.
“I didn’t talk to anyone about going to St. Francis,” Roche said. “I knew guys here from District 10 earlier. We all came in together and then (Adam) Barba came in the following year.”
Bancroft concurred with Roche that it was not a group decision to come to St. Francis.
“I came to St. Francis for volleyball and the physical therapy program,” Bancroft said. “I knew Adam (Roche) and Kyle (Beatty) were talking about it but we didn’t decide together.”
Fortunately for this group, when they first stepped onto the court in Degol Arena on the campus of St. Francis, it wasn’t the first time they were on the same side of the net.
Since before they were competing against each other in high school, they were teammates as members of the Tool City Club League.
“I played with Kyle (Beatty) and Adam (Barba) since I was 14 and with Adam (Roche) since I was 16,” Bancroft said.
Having that camaraderie and familiarity with one another played a major role in their growth as college volleyball players.
Besides being teammates, a few also became roommates. Bancroft and Roche were roommates for two years in a dorm room. Then they rented an apartment and added a third roommate in Beatty.
“I think it helps a lot,” Bancroft said of having his teammates as his roommates as well. “We get along very well. The chemistry has always kind of been there for us. It works out pretty good.”
Their on-court success did not stop in their local high school gymnasiums either.
Since he walked onto the campus four year’s ago, Bancroft has been the glue to hold this team together. For the past two year’s, Bancroft served as the team captain, a role he earned with hard work and leadership.
“It is a lot of responsibility,” Bancroft said. “The hardest part is to get everyone to work as a team. Everyone thought they knew everything when they got here. It is hard to get through to some people. Most of these guys were stars in high school and now they have to learn to take a back seat.”
Bancroft had to make a transition of his own from his freshman to sophomore campaign. In his first year with the Red Flash, Bancroft served as the setter. For the past three years, Bancroft switched his role from offense to defense and became the primary libero for St. Francis.
“It was more difficult than I thought it would be,” Bancroft said. “I guess I thought it wasn’t going to be much of a role change. I had to go from being the offensive quarterback to the defensive one. The main thing was that I didn’t have to worry about how the offense was going to produce. I just had to set them up.”
Bancroft found a comfort zone in his new role, leading the Red Flash in digs the past two years.
Roche had a stat-filled career in his own right. He led the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association in blocks for the past two years and is currently fifth in the nation with 1.27 blocks per set.
“I’ve definitely made some strides from high school to where I am now,” Roche said. “I was a decent blocker then in high school and now I am one of the top in college. I have grown pretty well.”
Beatty will be going out with a bang as well. In his senior year, he is currently fourth on the Red Flash roster in kills with 114 and service aces with 10.
Barba, who has one more year left of eligibility, currently sits with 42 kills on the season. Shorts did not dress this year as a freshman.
For Bancroft, Roche and Beatty, their final action on the court is fast approaching. At 10-15 and 5-7 in the conference, St. Francis was one spot away of making the playoffs. Instead, those three will play their final match today against Rutgers-Newark.
“I have mixed feelings,” Bancroft said. “It is going to be sad when it is all over. I have enjoyed it. I will miss the team the most. I am going to miss hanging out with the guys. I am going to miss the game but definitely being with the guys.”