From the moment she picked up a volleyball at a camp in sixth grade, sophomore Riley Homer was hooked. As a daughter of two collegiate athletes, Homer was destined to have a successful athletic career, but volleyball wasn’t the first sport she tried.
Homer started as a hockey player, heavily influenced by her hockey-playing father. However, it wasn’t until her mom, a former volleyball player at Ferris State, said, “God built you as a volleyball player. Just try it,” that she finally gave it a chance.
“I did one camp in sixth grade and fell in love,” Homer said.
Because Homer is from Michigan, Villanova was never high on her radar. When Villanova head coach Josh Steinbach reached out after watching her play, Homer was intrigued. Homer explained that throughout her recruiting process, she focused on three things.
“I wanted high academics, and I knew I wanted to go into business,” she said. “I wanted a great program that competed hard in their conference every year. And it really came down to the people and the atmosphere.”
Villanova checked all the boxes between the strong reputation of VSB, the success of the volleyball program and the tangible sense of community. Homer expressed that on her official visit where she met the coaching staff and the team, she got a really good feeling from them, which led her to commit to Villanova during her sophomore year. ‘Nova also provides Homer a sense of adventure that she was seeking.
“I’m from Michigan, so moving to the East Coast and hearing the girls talk about taking the train to New York or Philly for the day and just exploring sounded like such an adventure that I wouldn’t get in the Midwest,” Homer said.
Homer got a small taste of the Villanova experience a semester ahead of schedule in the spring of 2020 after graduating from high school early. She says that this helped her “ease into the process of being a Division One athlete.” Between the extra time and having the 2020 season postponed to the spring, Homer was able to settle in before taking the court for the Wildcats.
“Being here for the two months before getting sent home for Covid allowed me to really get to know the coaches,” she said. “So then with not competing in the fall, I was able to have a lot of one-on-one instruction with my coaches which was huge for me”
This extra time and attention paid off for Homer, as she went on to lead the team in kills and earn herself a spot on the All-Big East Freshman Team during the 2021 spring season. She has carried this success and momentum into the 2021 fall season, recording double-digit kills in 13 games, including a career high night against Northeastern with 25 kills, a spot on the Big East Honor Roll and two All-Tournament team honors.
Homer credits the success to her game day ritual, a tradition that includes straightening her hair, listening to the same playlists and receiving support from her coaches and teammates.
“My teammates are huge,” Home said. “I have great relationships with everyone on the team, but there are certain people that I can always go to if I am struggling and I know they will help bring me back to focusing on what I need to do for the team.”
The team as a whole has great chemistry that translates onto the court. Homer explained that “volleyball is such a momentum sport, and being able to communicate with and understand your teammates is huge.” This was a big difference for the team this year, as they were able to have a full preseason and spend time together, unlike last year.
“Having a regular preseason where we had just us on campus being able to spend a lot of time together, getting to know each other and how to communicate with each other was big for our chemistry,” Homer said.
Homer believes that the ‘Cats have a strong chance to compete in the Big East and the postseason this year. They have not gotten off to the best start, losing three of their first four conference games, but they have the pieces and the experience to get them back on track.
“I am excited to see where our program is going,” Homer said. “I know that myself and my teammates are continually getting better every day in practice. We have a lot of potential and right now we are trying to find a way to fulfill that potential”
Homer has set a personal goal to be named the Big East Outside Hitter of the Year, and with her outstanding start to the season, she and the Wildcats have a shot at something special this year.