Josh Richardson came to Orange Coast filled with doubt about his skills as a volleyball player. He said he even feared being cut.
His confidence didn't increase when he had to miss his first season because of a shoulder problem that one doctor told him could mean the end of his career.
But two years later, Richardson, a middle blocker, is set to leave Orange Coast with more than he ever expected, including a scholarship.
The last quest on Richardson's to-do list is a state championship and the Pirates play in the semifinals at 7:30 tonight against Santa Barbara at Irvine Valley College.
It's not that Richardson or his teammates haven't had chances to win it all. The Pirates have been in the last two title matches but lost to Golden West each time.
The Rustlers could loom again in OCC's future. Golden West plays Los Angeles Pierce in the other semifinal at 4:30 p.m. The title match is at 7:30 Saturday night.
Richardson had hoped to play at OCC in 1996 but was a redshirt on the bench when Golden West won the state title.
He missed that season because of a circulation problem in his right (hitting) shoulder and hand. The tips of two fingers turned black a week before Christmas of 1995 and he went to the see a doctor, who rushed him to the hospital for emergency surgery because of blood clots.
"They did that so I wouldn't die," Richardson said. But he continued to have problems and was told it could be the end of his playing days. He went to a specialist, who discovered an aneurysm in his shoulder and he had surgery in late February, 1996, missing the season.
"It was excruciating," Richardson said. "I would come to every practice and just sit there."
Last season he returned and was solid from the start. He finished second on the team in kills behind Kevin Reid, who is at UC Irvine and helped show Richardson around the campus on his recruiting trip there Wednesday.
Richardson had 67 kills in 87 chances in his last four matches and tops the Pirates in kills this season. He is fifth on the college's all-time list.
All of Richardson's accomplishments are more impressive because he didn't take up volleyball until he moved from Corona to Newport Beach before his sophomore year in high school.
"In Corona," Richardson said, "It was like, 'What's volleyball?' My first year I was terrible but I loved it."
Not only is he somewhat new to the game, but he didn't benefit from playing on club teams like so many of the best players.
"It was too expensive," Richardson said. "I just played on the high school team."
OCC and Golden West split two meetings this season. Golden West won in four games at home on Feb. 25 and OCC won in five games on April 4. Orange Coast beat Santa Barbara in four games and Golden West lost to Los Angeles Pierce in five games also this season. . . . There is a common theme for Josh Richardson and Golden West's top player, Scott Lane. Both are waiters at Italian restaurants within a few miles of each other and both have asked for Saturday off. Lane works at the Spaghetti Factory and Richardson at the Spaghetti Bender.