“I knew that I wanted to be the libero for the EMU men’s volleyball team,” said senior Austin Tomlin (Greenville, Va./Riverheads). “From the moment I started volleyball that was my end goal...I told Coach Lickey at the beginning of the season, I want this more than anything I have ever wanted before athletically.”
And though Austin had never played volleyball before he joined the team just two years ago, he has achieved his goal and is excelling in his role in EMU’s back row.
“It has been...probably the most rewarding thing of my college career,” Austin reflected. “When I do have games where I play well it’s like wow, I can actually do this, like I’ve worked hard enough to be able to compete at this level.”
Over the team’s last three games, Austin had three of the four highest dig totals of his career, including ten in a sweep of Neumann and eight in a three-setter against Wittenberg.
“His past few performances have been his personal bests,” noted Head Coach Danielle Lickey, “and demonstrate impressive statistics for D-III.”
Austin didn’t get much playing time during his first two seasons of volleyball, as he was busy playing catch-up.
“I was blessed to be on that team with such talented players,” said Austin. “Working with the other liberos like Micah Buller and Colton Frey, they really helped me to develop my skills and they served as role models of the type of player I wanted to be.”
Now, as libero, he’s an essential part of the team.
“He came into his senior season expecting to work hard and earn a spot,” said Coach Lickey, “and he managed to do so very well. He continues to grow and get better every day and has helped improve stats across the board for other players.”
Austin played baseball his freshman year at EMU, but ultimately knew that wasn’t what he wanted to do all four years. Then his sophomore year he was invited to a volleyball open gym.
“I was like, ‘I’ve never played before, but I’ll come.’ And then the coach at the time, he called me the next day, and he was like ‘hey, would you want to be on the team?’ And I was like ‘sure, why not?’” Austin laughed.
A couple of years later, Austin is a co-captain and a starter - but he’s more than that.
“I feel like every guy on this team is a family member to me,” Austin said, “because we all truly care for one another and we want each person to be the best person they can be on the court and off the court.”
Coach Lickey notices and appreciates his dedication to his teammates.
“He always demonstrated excellence as a teammate, continuing to learn and grow without expecting anything besides growth,” she said. “This mindset has lent to him being an incredibly selfless and disciplined player.”
There’s a lot of mutual appreciation flowing in the EMU men’s volleyball team. Austin mentioned his coach as one reason he stuck with volleyball after wandering onto the court that fateful day.
“Coach Lickey has been...such an inspiration and drive to help all of us develop a strong character as an athlete,” he said. “She truly cares for each of us in a way that I have never experienced before from a coach.”
“They have just been such a huge help to me and I know that I couldn't have gotten to where I am now without them.”
And he’s in a pretty good place.
“Austin is responsible, disciplined, kind, thoughtful, selfless and intelligent,” said Coach Lickey. “I am so pleased he was awarded Royals Athlete of the Week. He truly demonstrates exactly what a Royal athlete should strive to embody.”
-- by Elizabeth Nisly, EMU Sports Information Writing Intern