“What do great liberos look like? Most coaches would agree they are strong, athletic and explosive; they can move around the court easily and quickly; they have a great touch when they contact the ball and can control it to the spot of their choosing; and they can communicate at a level that demands the attention of everyone on the court.”
– Erik Sullivan, The Volleyball Coaching Bible, Volume II
One of the best summations of the position if there ever was one. Natural liberos are honestly few and far between these days. Quite rarely will you ever find athletes capable of having all the above qualities packaged into one body. The ones who do, are true diamonds in the rough.
This piece concludes our “top players” series which we began in the summer. Many of you will also notice it is now October… several months after we started. The simple reason for this lag is because Libero is by no means the flashiest position on a volleyball court and took quite a while to examine. It’s a true down in the trenches job, and the way libero stats are covered at the NCAA level in my opinion aren’t really conducive to telling us who is good. Who cares if your Digs/Set number is high if you can’t pass the ball? Who cares if your serve receive percentage is high if your passing a 1.8 on the 4.0 scale (based on Colemans passing method).
While keeping the ball in play does not score points (not rocket science), what it does do is give your team more chances to score (which is important). Hitting % is the stat most correlated to winning in volleyball, regardless of the level of play. A libero’s job intrinsically is to give your team more chances to score. They do this with effective serve receive, they do this with effective coverage, they do this with effective communication (calling holes in the block, open spots on the court, etc), and they do this by digging enemy attacks. These are the young men I think lay claim as some of the best at the position coming in to 2021 (not including incoming recruits/freshmen).
- David Cerqua – St. John Fisher
With the graduation of Danny Martens and Thomas Nelson, David Cerqua I believe stands as the best libero in DIII coming into 2021 (and very likely was the best last year).
He has the most complete all around skill-set of players at the position and stands Fresh off a 1st-team All-American Selection. He solidifies the St. John’s Fisher team as they ascend the ranks of D3 and challenge for the programs first UVC Championship.
2. Peter Klembczyk – Wentworth Institute of Technology
One of the quietest all-region selections last year, the only reason Klembczyck was not selected as an All-American is simply because there were four players worthy of being All-Americans at the position and only three spots available (totally just an opinion the committee has their reasons). Klembcyzk is good, and may very well earn an All-American honor this season.
3. Robert Nolan – SUNY New Paltz
Of all the Libero’s on this list, Nolan is the most yeoman of them all. He’s not very flashy, and has the lowest digs/set numbers of the liberos listed. This is more a function of the New Paltz system then it is Nolan, as New Paltz is not known for their defense. But Nolan is hands down the best passer of all the liberos on this list, having only been aced 5 times last year (.08 RE/Set) while playing through the meat grinder which was the New Paltz schedule. He’ll anchor the Hawks serve receive again as they seek to defend their national championship.
4. Bregin DeMarco – Dominican
The Stars were the ascending program in the Midwest last season, and Bregin DeMarco was the unheralded hero of their defense. I believe DeMarco has the best shot of being Defensive player of the year in the NACC, as he and the Stars seek to capitalize on their stellar 2020 season. He has a great touch on the ball, reads well, and keeps his team in the point, everything you could want in a libero. If Robert Nolan wasn’t returning for a 5th year he would be the best serve receive libero in DIII.
5. Kyle Cohan – Carthage
Carthage was very underrated last year, and Kyle Cohan was no exception. He passes well, he moves well, and he communicates well. He does the little things right each point, which is the simple effectiveness of his game. He plays very balanced, which is an uncommon trait in the American collegiate landscape. He and Carthage will seek to continue their domination of the CCIW in 2021.
Connor Westerfield – Misericordia
Hailing from the MAC, Westerfield had a particularly impressive 2020 campaign. He led the conference in digs/set (2.92) while making a case for MAC Defensive Player of the Year.
He has the best covering skills of the athletes listed and is a solid returning piece for the up and coming program at Misericordia.
Let us know what Liberos you think will have an impact in 2021, follow us on Twitter and Instragram @FrogJumpVball and gives us a name! Ribbet.