Senior Spotlight: Beaver County Christian volleyball standout hoped to repay leadership debt

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020 | 10:46 PM


Editor’s note: Each day, Trib HSSN will spotlight WPIAL spring athletes whose senior years were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

As a freshman, Zac Barbato started on the right side for the Beaver County Christian boys volleyball team that won the WPIAL Class AA title and advanced to the PIAA finals.

The Beaver Falls resident appreciated the support that first year from the numerous veteran leaders on the roster, including his brother, Peter, who helped him gain confidence while cultivating his talent on the court.

Barbato had hoped to be that same type of veteran leader this spring as the Eagles sought to make a strong run at the postseason.

“It was definitely a bummer to see it come to a close so fast,” he said. “I was really looking forward to one more season with the guys in my class and the younger guys, too. The improvement we saw over the first couple of weeks was awesome, and we were excited to see what the season was going to hold for us.”

Barbato was coming off a junior season where he earned first-team All-WPIAL honors at outside hitter. He helped BCC reach the WPIAL quarterfinals.

The 2019 season was bounce back of sorts for Barbato, as he missed almost all his sophomore campaign with an ankle injury.

Barbato, also a two-time all-conference performer for the BCC boys soccer team, is gearing up for his first year on the men’s soccer team at Division III Messiah College. He plans to major in business management.

What is your best memory of playing volleyball at Beaver County Christian?

My freshman year, being a small school and making it all the way to Penn State against the big boys (District 3 power Northeastern) with the state title on the line. That was pretty sweet.

What is your best overall memory as a sports fan?

As a Pens fan, watching them win the Stanley Cup is always fun. It’s hard to pick a specific moment from those.

How influential was having your older brother, Peter, as a varsity teammate for two years?

He definitely had a big personality on and off the court. He was a great example of how to lead on the court and how to compete with a lot of intensity and desire to win.

What was it like to start on varsity right away as a freshman?

It was pretty sweet and also definitely a deer-in-the-headlights feeling. From playing middle school ball to going right into some big varsity matches was pretty intense. My first game was against (defending PIAA Class AA champion) Northeastern, the best team in the state. But things settled down, and I had a good season with my team.

In what areas do you think you improved from that first varsity season in 2017?

I think in every way, for sure, from overall confidence, passing, hitting, defense and serving. Playing right side my freshman year, it helped me learn to swing from that side. I also think I got better at accepting coaching from coach (Christen) Adels and was able to improve on and off the court.

How did you get connected with the volleyball program at Messiah College?

A good friend of mine, Matthew Knab, he was a senior on the team my freshman year, went to Messiah. Matt and the Messiah coach invited me to their summer camp. I went out there last summer, and after seeing me play, they offered me a spot on the team. I accepted the offer, and now I am getting ready for my first college season.

What excites you about the Messiah men’s volleyball program?

One big part of it is the coaches and what they look for in their players. It’s not just pure volleyball skill, but they look for all-around good people, and that’s who I saw there when I was getting to know the team. They really want the players to progress as a group and a team. Winning games is high on the list, but it’s not the only thing, and that’s important.

What are some of things you are doing to stay in shape?

For myself, doing work for (Townsend Construction & Engineering) with excavating and concrete work keeps me active. Since construction opened up, I pretty much work every day. It keeps me moving. At the company, there are a couple of sand courts at the company’s shop. We played a couple of times with a small group of guys making sure we abided by the safety regulations and social distancing as best as possible.

What is something you love to do away from work, volleyball, or schoolwork?

I enjoy a lot of things related to cars, especially working on them and racing them. I’ve had the opportunity through school to work at an engine building shop, and I’ve built a small-block Chevy motor. I’ve enjoyed doing (autocross time trial) racing up at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex (in Wampum, Lawrence County). This year, if it opens, I hope to get a little time in up at the track.

Do you consider yourself a musical person? Do you play an instrument?

I played the drums with our school’s worship team for two years and also with my youth group. I’m not really that great but OK enough. It would be cool to learn the drums really well, but I feel I have interests elsewhere as of right now.

If you could invite any three people from history to have dinner with you, who would they be?

Sidney Crosby, my father (Michael), since he died when I was young, and (British politician, philanthropist, and social activist) William Wilberforce. That would be interesting, for sure.

If you could have anyone deliver a speech at your graduation ceremony, who would it be and why?

Tim Keller, a pastor and author. I think he would be able to give some important advice to me and my classmates, for sure. I think it would be cool.

If you were asked to give a speech, what advice would you give to underclassmen?

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on you own understanding, but in all your ways, acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.” I would say that in Jesus Christ, we find our strength.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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