The Journal Gazette
Friday, January 10, 2020 1:00 am

Season preview

Diedrich brothers join forces for PFW

Blake Sebring | For The Journal Gazette

Four or five patches along the wooden fence in their Orlando, Florida, backyard show where Jon Diedrich lost his cool after competing against his older brother Richie.

“We went out every single day to the backyard, played basketball, played football, and I beat on him every single day,” Richie said with a grin.

Which is why there were holes in the fence from Jon throwing balls or kicking his foot through it.

“I always lost at everything we did, and that's all I can say about it,” Jon admitted, but he also had the Diedrich stubbornness which drove him to keep trying, even though his brother was three years older, taller, stronger and a little meaner.

“One of them would always come in ticked,” their mother, Terry, said. “They were the typical, competitive brothers, really.”

So why in the world would Jon even consider following his big brother to become a member of the Purdue Fort Wayne men's volleyball team? To take more abuse or maybe to stay in his big brother's shadow?

Actually, it's to surpass his older brother. That's not Jon saying that, but Ritchie.

“He'll surpass me, if not this year then next.”

That's kind of surprising considering Richie is an all-conference player heading into his senior season, and Jon is a freshman, the rookie who feels like he's looking up to everyone else.

But Jon has all the advantages Richie had to build into his game to become a college player. While Jon soars when he leaps, Richie has always had to work on his legs to find any hang time. While Richie is a self-made player who is getting the most from his work ethic, Jon has the natural ability learned from growing up competing against his brother.

“I think Jon was born to play volleyball,” their father, Rich, said. “Richie had to work harder for it.”

Which is why Richie is pushing his brother so hard in preseason practice. He knows how good little brother can be, and how good the Mastodons need him to be for this to be a successful season, his last one. He knows his last chance will depend a great deal on his brother's first chance.

“The dream is to be able to look to my right and see this guy playing next to me,” Richie said. “College ball is much different, but he's picking it up pretty quickly. There's nothing better than seeing him go up and get a kill. It's gone really well.”

With Richie and Tomas Gago playing middle hitter, Pelegrin Vargas playing outside hitter, Fredrico Santos at setter and Libero Troy Gooch, PFW needs Jon to step up at opposite to challenge for a Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association title. The Mastodons need his 6-foot-7 height, blocking and hitting to add another option to help the veterans.

That's why he's here as the season opens today at home against Queens followed by a Saturday home match against Belmont Abbey.

“As soon as he started playing volleyball, I made this place sound like Los Angeles,” Richie said. “This was the place to be.”

It didn't hurt that Jon grew five inches last year, and this summer he beat Richie for the first time in their annual race down the beach. Jon considered other places, but said the decision was pretty easy to come to Fort Wayne. For once, he wondered, what would it be like to be on the same team as his brother instead of getting beat up by him?

“It would have been ugly if we had played against each other, so we might as well be on the same team,” Richie said. “As soon as he committed, I knew it was going to go well. Being in the same side, it's worked out very, very well.”

If you go

PFW vs. Queens

When: 7 p.m. today


Where: Gates Sports Center

Series: Purdue Fort Wayne leads 1-0

PFW vs. Belmont Abbey

When: 2 p.m. Saturday


Where: Gates Sports Center

Series: Purdue Fort Wayne leads 2-0


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