Accidents Happen

    March 27, 2017

    By Adrianna Robakowski, USC Sports Information Student Assistant 

    As a freshman, he played in all 26 games and led the team in hitting percentage. As a sophomore, he was a two-time Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Week and American Volleyball Coaches Association Honorable Mention All-American. Despite a back injury his junior year, he still appeared in 20 matches, hit .500-plus five times, had five-plus digs once and had five-plus blocks three times. This year, his senior season, he was voted captain by his teammates. These are just a few of the honors and accolades of middle blocker Andy Benesh, who only began playing volleyball his sophomore year of high school, almost accidentally.

    They say “accidents happen”, but “accidentally” ending up on the volleyball team in an effort to avoid taking a standard PE class was one of those pleasant accidents that actually changed the course of Benesh’s life. California law mandates that every high schooler participate in two years of physical education, so when playing on the basketball team his freshman year did not seem to be working out for Benesh who claims he “wasn’t very good”, he started looking for alternatives.

    “I was in PE, and I really did not like running around the school so I switched into the volleyball offseason class, and I didn’t even ask the coach,” Benesh said, “My name just showed up on his roll call, and he didn’t really say anything. I was going to switch into another offseason sport just to fulfill my physical education requirement for second semester, but I started to have a lot of fun.”

    Looking to take his skills to the next level, USC felt like the natural choice for Benesh.

    “I’ve actually been a huge USC fan my entire life. One of my childhood best friends is Matt Lopes. His dad has been the associate athletic director for a long time at USC,” Benesh said. “[Matt and I] would play in his front yard emulating Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, and even when playing basketball in the front yard, we would pretend to be Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt.”

    Accidentally stumbling into that volleyball class would pay off as Benesh would turn out to be one of the best American players in his age group. In addition to playing for USC, he would play for the 2015 Men’s Junior National Team, competed in the U21 Pan Am Games in Canada and the U21 FIVB World Championship in Mexico. He was also a member of the 2014 Men’s Junior National Team that placed third at the NORCECA Continental Championship in El Salvador.


     

     

    Four years after choosing USC, Benesh does not define his college career based on a single match or the number of victories, but rather focuses on the bonds that have been made with his teammates both on and off the court.

    “When I think of USC men’s volleyball, I don’t really think of being on the court or playing with the guys, even though that is what we’re here to do,” Benesh said, “but I think of the camaraderie we have in the locker room before practice...I think that has been the most enjoyable part of being a college athlete. Everyone is just doing the same thing and you’re grinding together. It sucks some days and it is really fun some days, but just having those guys there…I have 20 best friends. It has been a really cool experience.” It’s those 20 best friends who voted Benesh as a captain for the 2017 season. His goals as a captain include “being a consistent leader on and off the court”, and “creating a culture where everyone wants to be there.”

    After this season is over, and Benesh graduates from USC with his degree in communication, he hopes to pursue volleyball before beginning his career in public relations or marketing.

    “I definitely want to go play in Europe for a season or two, I think that would be really fun. I’ve never been to Europe so I think it would be a good chance to explore,” Benesh said. “There’s not a lot of money in volleyball, especially your rookie contract, but I have a lot of friends that are playing overseas and they seem to really like it, so I may go try to play with another American.”

    A stellar college volleyball career at USC, teammates that will be lifelong friends, and a potential contract to play in Europe are all the result of Benesh “accidentally” ending up in a high school volleyball class. His decision to continue to pursue his newfound sport took his life in a whole new direction.

    “I ended up just sticking with it and I’m glad I did,” said Benesh.