Boys Volleyball: Lincoln-Way East’s Royer named Player of Year
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media June 10, 2012 6:10PM
Lincoln-Way East’s Nate Royer is the SouthtownStar’s Boys Volleyball Player of the Year. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 12, 2012 6:04AM
On a night when everyone in the Lincoln-Way East gym knew where the ball was going, the Griffins’ Nate Royer embraced the spotlight again and again.
The senior outside hitter slammed kill after kill, each of them essential to a playoff win.
In the end, it was a three-set win — over defending state champion Sandburg — in which Royer finished with a program-record 22 kills.
“Nate was just on fire that match,” East coach Kris Fiore said. “It didn’t matter what blocking was thrown at him. He was finding every single tiny little hole in the defense and hitting. He was our go-to player, and he wanted that role, he embraced it and he succeeded.”
One of the most well-rounded players in the state and the first four-year varsity starter in Lincoln-Way East’s program history, Royer is the 2012 SouthtownStar Boys Volleyball Player of the Year.
“It’s a great honor to me,” Royer said. “It’s such a strong area, and Illinois is such a good volleyball state so it means a lot with all the great guys to be one of the top ones.”
Coming off an injury-plagued junior season that saw him deal with a torn meniscus in his right knee and a broken left pinky finger, Royer came out with a vengeance as a senior. He won the MVP at Lincoln-Way East’s tournament, was named to All-Tournament teams at Marist, Brother Rice and Wheaton Warrenville South, and was named All-SouthWest Suburban.
A freakish athlete with a 40-inch vertical leap, the 6-foot-1 outside was among the area leaders in kills with 327.
But Royer was far from a one-dimensional player.
He also posted 183 digs, 40 blocks and 23 service aces. Without a natural height advantage, Royer was forced to develop all facets of his game.
“Being well-rounded is a big thing,” Royer said. “Teams pick out the little things, your weaknesses and try to exploit them during the game. I try to be as smart as I can with court awareness and how to fool other players.”
Able to slam kills past blockers, the senior also could play the finesse game, hitting softly over defenses. His athletic ability on display, he often readjusted in mid-air to hit with his off, left hand.
“The playoffs showed what a complete player he was and what he meant to the program,” Fiore said. “I don’t think anyone in the state does more for their team in both the back row and front (at the net). He can attack from anywhere and plays great defense.”
Helping the second-seeded Griffins at their own sectional, Royer was a dominant force offensively in the Sandburg match. Of his 22 kills, eight came in the third game.
Against a hot Brother Rice team in the sectional final, the playoff run and season came to an end. Royer had 12 digs and 11 kills in the loss as Lincoln-Way East finished the season 35-4.
“It was really tough to handle because we had a great group of guys,” Royer said. “I’ll miss playing with them, and losing to Brother Rice, they were a great team, but I felt like we had a lot of potential this year.”
Helping lead the way for Lincoln-Way East his senior season, Royer certainly left his mark. His 327 kills stand as the school’s single-season best. His 700 career kills surpassed George Langheld’s career mark (686).
Royer, who also played cornerback on East’s football team, has committed to play volleyball for St. Ambrose University, the two-time NAIA runner-up, where he will be reunited with Langheld.
“A couple guys I know are going there, and their coach is a great guy,” Royer said. “(St. Ambrose) has had a couple great seasons and keeps on getting better and better. I’m hoping to help them any way possible.”