Volleyball Phenom Rachel Hess
Last December, The Morning Call named Rachel Hess of Breinigsville volleyball “Player of the Year.” Shortly before that, she was named Eastern Pennsylvania Conference MVP. Hess, who attends Allentown Central Catholic High School, is widely acknowledged to be one of the top players in Pennsylvania. College coaches have been courting her for months although she’s only a junior and just 16 years old.
Naturally gifted, Hess is lucky to have a few additional factors working in her favor: a great work ethic, supportive parents and Matt Hoover, sports performance specialist at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) Sports Academy.
Training with a plan
Hoover has been training Hess since she was in eighth grade. Her parents were looking for ways to help their athletic daughter get to the next level. Someone recommended sports performance training. That’s how Rachel’s parents, Wendy and Mike, met Hoover.
“Rachel understood the training and how important it was right away,” Hoover says. “Even when she was a kid.”
The couple hoped that Hoover could help their daughter get stronger, faster and more explosive. Unfortunately, one of the first things he had to do was help her get over an injury.
“Her freshman year, Rachel overturned her ankle,” Wendy says. “Matt worked with her to rehab it and get her back to playing sooner.”
Next stage: domination
That done, Hoover turned to transforming the talented teen into a dominant player. The two typically meet for 90 minutes at a time, often two or three times a week. Sessions include work on speed and agility, strength and injury prevention. There’s also “plyometrics” or “jump training,” a type of exercise that can help a volleyball player jump high to meet a ball and slam it down hard before any opposing player could possibly make a play on it. That move is called a “kill.” Rachel had 22 kills for Allentown Central Catholic in the state finals game last year.
“Matt shows me what I can do,” Rachel says. “He sets the bar really high, and I challenge myself to meet his expectations. Pushing me in training helps me push myself in a game.”
And what about that years-old goal of getting to the next level?
“Rachel will definitely go to the next level,” Hoover says, “probably Division I somewhere.”
– Laurie Harrington