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  • Courtesy photo

    Daniel Webster College freshman Joel Hendrix.
  • Courtesy photo

    Daniel Webster College freshman Joel Hendrix.
  • Courtesy photo

    Daniel Webster College freshman Joel Hendrix.
  • Courtesy photo

    Daniel Webster College freshman Joel Hendrix.
  • Courtesy photo

    Rivier College freshman Chris Markuson.
  • Courtesy photo

    Rivier College freshman Chris Markuson.
Thursday, April 12, 2012

Freshmen sparking Daniel Webster, Rivier volleyball teams

NASHUA – They came from far out west and have succeeded right away in the east.

Can that really happen in the sport of men’s college volleyball? It can if you’re Daniel Webster College freshman Joel Hendrix and Rivier College freshman Chris Markuson.

They both could be the cornerstones of their programs for the next three years. Thanks in part to the play of the 6-foot-4 Hendrix, who hails from Kane’ohe, Hawaii, the Eagles are enjoying their best season ever (14-6 overall, 6-6 in the New England Collegiate Conference) in the brief history of the program, beginning conference tourney play.

Meanwhile, Markuson, who somehow was convinced to leave Southern California (Cupertino, to be exact) to come east, has recently been a back-to-back Great Northeast Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week as the Raiders are the 10th-ranked team in the country in Division III and head into this weekends GNAC Tournament as the top seed.

Hendrix, meanwhile, is already a four-time Rookie of the Week winner in the NECC.

“We’re fortunate to have Charlie with us,” said Eagles coach Braden Zamore, referring to Hendrix by his nickname. “We got a call from his club director in Hawaii, and he was looking for aviation management, and we kind of took it from there.”

Kolek, meanwhile, spotted Markuson at a national Junior Olympic event in Austin, Texas, prior to his senior year. At 6-foot-5, he was hard to miss.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had a freshman make that kind of impact,” Kolek said. “He’s just got a lot of poise and he’s made a great impact offensively.”

Both players say the clinching factor, besides academics, in going to their respective schools was their primary visit.

“The atmosphere was great, it looked like the perfect place to play,” said Markuson, a biology major who leads the team in kills per set (3.73), is tied for the team lead in service aces per set, and is second in hitting percentage and blocks. “Being a freshman can be a little different, but once you get to know everyone, it’s fun. Once the season started, I felt closer to my teammates.”

The biology major actually was a baseball player all his youth before he got to St. Francis High School in San Jose, Calif. “I just got bored with it,” he said of baseball. “In freshman year, I went to a summer camp.”

And that was that. Kolek feels Markuson is a very good two-way player, and doesn’t let the tough moments get to him as the Raiders, undefeated in conference play, hope to win the GNAC Tournament and qualify for the NCAAs.

Markuson admitted he didn’t expect to make such a big impact.

“Not really,” he said. “I expected to be decent to pretty good. But once the season started, it just kind of took off.”

“He doesn’t get flustered,” Kolek said. “At the beginning of the year, he was just trying to get a feel for things. Now he just plays.”

Meanwhile, Hendrix is having everyone tell him how lucky he is with the mild winter that just ended, but he’s ready for snow next year.

“I just felt I needed a change after being in Hawaii,” he said.

And he also has enjoyed the higher level of competition in college.

“Honestly, yeah,” he said. “Coming up to the college level, I knew it would be a major change from club ball and high school.”

But that, too, is a change he’s handled well. At last look, he led the Eagles in total blocks (third in the NECC), was tops in hitting percentage, and second on the team in kills as a dynamic offensive player.

Zamore had watched some tapes of Hendrix, and felt that the level he played at in high school in Hawaii automatically put him ahead of other high school players he’d seen in the northeast.

But, as they say, seeing is believing, and once Hendrix came on campus Zamore and his staff were blown away.

The best thing about both Hendrix and Markuson is that they’re freshmen. Each program theoretically has them for three seasons after this, and the sky may be the limit.

“I’m really excited about it,” Hendrix said. “I want to see where we end up after the next couple of years.”

“He’s one of the best players in the league as a freshman,” Kolek said of Markuson.

“If he builds on it, he’ll be the best player who ever came here.”

Two bright futures are being served up.