The game has changed dramatically throughout volleyball’s life since its first conception in 1895. Moving away from basic fireman rotations on the court, changes to the rules on net touches and back row attacks, and even having the game ball switch between Molten and Mikasa every year. Other transitions such as going from side-out scoring to 15 points onto rally scoring to 25 like we all play today have been a marking distinction between the old and new generations. The most significant change that has affected how younger players train and develop has been introducing role positions with middle blockers, outside hitters, setters, opposites, and liberos. Its introduction has been great for delineating responsibilities on the court and allowing players to become masters for their specific skill sets.
One by-product of this system is that once a player becomes established in their position, it can be nearly impossible to transition to another. It’s even rarer for middle blockers who seldom get defensive training in the backcourt, leaving them to be known as “block-heads.” One such player for the Ramblers, who has seen his career skyrocket since breaking out of the middle’s curse, has been opposite hitter Ryan Mather. Throughout high school and most of his career at Grand Canyon University, Ryan was an accolade-winning middle. In club volleyball, he took home bronze with SCVC at Junior Nationals, was nominated for all MIVA 2nd team nomination three years straight, and was even selected to play for the USA junior national team in 2012.
Proving himself to be an incredibly active middle with skills beyond the frontcourt, Ryan transitioned to the opposite in 2015 and has taken off since. Heading out from GCU, Ryan has played two years professionally overseas, where he got to put his skills to the test. Abroad he played for Akaa-Volley (@akaavolley) in Finland and Chev Diekirch Volley (@chevdiekirchvolleyball) in Luxembourg. The small country located between Belgium, France, and Germany is a unique place to play as one of Europe’s highest GDP per capita. As a smaller country, teams usually travel and play against all the surrounding country’s leagues, which can be great exposure for beginning players. With Diekirch, he finished 2nd in the Luxembourg SuperCup before COVID 19 canceled the rest of the tournaments.
Coming back to the states during the world’s first stage of lockdowns, Mather was quickly scooped up by the Vegas Ramblers to give them an edge for the 2020 Championships. Already well adapted to the desert heat from his years in Arizona, the Nevada team was a perfect fit for the California native. It was also a huge convenience to have his former setter and fellow Antelope, Tanner Maxwell, on the team. It was clear their connection was still crisp as the team finished third place at the tournament, with Ryan being named to the NVA All-Tournament team. It was clear as day how much Ryan had grown and developed as a player while abroad in Europe, displaying his bag of tricks and skills. With a powerful arm, high-IQ plays, and some fantastic backcourt defense from a big man Ryan Solidified himself as one of the All-Star players coming into the next season.
“I’m super stoked to get volleyball moving professionally here in the states. Our national team is top 5 in the world and one of the best teams, so we need to have that level here in the states to promote volleyball and keep us top in the world.” – Ryan Mather.
Fans can follow Ryan Mather (@rmather10), the Vegas Ramblers (@ramblersnvausa), and the NVA (@nvausa) on Instagram and Facebook to get weekly media updates leading up to the 2021 season. To see Ryan and the Ramblers in action, check out the NVA’s YouTube page to watch replays of the 2020 Championships in Salt Lake City and live stream coverage and commentary for the new season starting April 23rd-25th. The NVA is excited to have Mather back again this year! RAMBLE ON!