VIdeo Spotlight - Nick Del Bianco


LANGLEY, British Columbia - For a time in the spring of last year, Nick Del Bianco was playing better than Spartans fifth-year captain Rudy Verhoeff. 

For about a month near the tail end of season, whenever Del Bianco and Verhoeff went head-to-head in practice, the second-year 6-foot-4, 185-pound outside hitter was taking it to the CIS First Team All-Canadian. Verhoeff was on the starting unit. Del Bianco, who hails from Surrey, B.C. and graduated from Fleetwood Park, was on the secondary unit and they faced each other every single day.

And for a while, Verhoeff simply couldn’t stop the youngster.

“It was just a beating,” recalled Spartans coach Ben Josephson. “Rudy could not stop him. Delbs was winning every time we matched them up. Rudy just got torched all day and he didn’t get torched by anyone else in the league. But he couldn’t even hold his own in practice against our second-year kid.”

It wasn’t that Verhoeff was playing poorly. It was just that Del Bianco was that good. 

Eventually Verhoeff raised his game and turned the tables on Del Bianco over the last two weeks of the season, but what that battle proved was that this year, when the second-year back-up would become a third-year starter, he would be well-prepared.

“Nick’s been holding his own, if not succeeding, in practice for the last two years,” Josephson said. “Now he gets to show the rest of the conference what he’s been working hard at.”

With Verhoeff and fellow outside hitter Marc Howatson now graduated and Steven Marshall out with an injury for five of the Spartans first six matches, Del Bianco has had a chance to step into the spotlight. And he’s been every bit the player the Spartans had hoped for. 

Through six matches, he leads the Spartans in kills, with 3.25 per set, and points, with 3.81 per set, which has him sixth and seventh in Canada West, respectively. And in the process, he has helped Trinity Western to a 5-1 record. 

“It’s a lot different than previous seasons,” Del Bianco said. “I valued that experience as well but now I’m enjoying being on the court. It’s pretty exciting. I just enjoy the experience and I’m trying to make the most of it.”

That last line is Del Bianco in a nutshell: making the most of every opportunity he’s given. 

In his first year, with Howatson injured for the first semester, Del Bianco got a chance to play coming straight out of high school. 

Of the 23 matches he saw action, he started seven and, on a team that was stacked with talent and went on to win the first of back-to-back national championships, he averaged 1.52 kills per set during the season, which had him trailing only to Verhoeff and Josh Doornenbal. 

However while those numbers were impressive, his shining moment was in the Spartans CIS national championships quarterfinal match against archrival Alberta. 

Midway through the second set, with the Spartans trailing 12-7, Josephson made the decision to substitute Del Bianco in for Howatson, who was still rehabilitating his injured ankle and didn’t quite have his jump back. Del Bianco, on the other hand, was ready to leap. 

And leap he did. 

Put into a favourable match-up, the first-year player turned the Spartans fortunes around. While Trinity Western didn’t end up winning the second set, losing 25-23, they made it close and garnered momentum late in the set thanks in large part to Del Bianco. 

He went on to earn nine kills, seven digs, two blocks and an ace as he helped the Spartans to a five-set pressure-packed win in front of raucous home crowd of over 1,900 spectators.

“For a freshman to come into that environment against that team and play like that is absolutely shocking,” Josephson said immediately following the game. “I knew we had something special when we recruited him but I had no idea he was that tough.”

For Del Bianco, he was just playing volleyball: “I didn’t really realize the pressure until after the game. I just went in as a sub and played. I didn’t really think about the magnitude of the game.” 

Moving on to his second year, while he didn’t play quite as much as his first year – largely due to the Spartans starting lineup remaining healthy throughout the season – when he did play, he managed 1.91 kills per set and a .312 hitting percentage. 

Now this year, he’s taken his game to yet another level. And learning how to be a starter. 

“He’s been unreal off the bench for the past two years,” Josephson said. “Now that teams are game-planning against him, he’s realizing it’s a hard game. It’s been a really a cool learning experience for him and for me it’s been fun to watch him progress through it. He’s under fourth and fifth-year type stress. He’s handling it really well. He’s just an amazing volleyball player and for a first year starter, this is everything and more from what we expected.”

That’s great for the Spartans, but for Del Bianco – ever the perfectionist – his own expectations are always higher than anyone else. 

“He is so professional and he wants every step, every shoulder angle, every hand contact and his eye work to be right. He wants everything to be perfect, so he trains like crazy. Then when the game starts he competes like crazy. He has a good understanding of how to train and how to perform and I think that’s showing in how he’s playing.”

And now with his focus entirely on the indoor game, an even brighter future seems inevitable. 

After six summers of beach volleyball that saw him achieve a variety of levels of success, including a fourth place finish at the 2010 FIVB World Youth Championships and, most recently, a tie fifth at the 2012 FIVB World Junior Championships, the summer of 2013, will see him go indoors. He plans to tryout for Canada’s FISU team, which will compete at next year’s Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia and if that doesn’t work, he’ll play for Team B.C. at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que.

“I’m not sure if I want to play beach or indoor in the long run,” Del Bianco said. “I’m going to try and see what a summer of playing high-performance volleyball on the court is like. I want to figure out what I want to do in the future.”

Fortunately for Del Bianco, Josephson and the Spartans, he has the better part of three years left at Trinity Western before he has to make a decision. And that has Josephson especially sleeping well. 

Knowing that Verhoeff was pounding ball from his side of the court always allowed Josephson to rest with ease.

Knowing Del Bianco is here for this year and two more years, gives the Spartans coach similar shut-eye.


Last Updated: 2012-11-16
Author: Mark Janzen