Anilee Sher talks about summer in Israel

By Dylan Manfre

Anilee Sher had a pretty eventful summer. One that she is still processing. 

There was not much downtime between her stint with the Israeli National Team and when she worked the high performance volleyball summer camps at Rider. Straight from that, Sher began preseason training for her senior year.

The summer was long and exhausting but it has been a highlight of the senior setter’s career. 

Head Coach Jeff Rotondo calls her the best setter in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) and does not think it is particularly close either. Sher has garnered a lot of praise for her play, and rightfully so. Sher tied the all-time assist record at 3,113 after Rider’s Sept. 19 match vs. Quinnipiac. 

Three thousand assists for a setter is not rare in a four-year college career, however, Sher basically accomplished the feat in two-and-a-half-years since the spring 2021 season consisted of 13 games. 

“Her success as a player can be somewhat intimidating because she is that good,” Rotondo said.

Going back home

Sher has been connected to Israel her whole life. She was born there and has family throughout the country. Sher herself has not been to Israel since she was 9. She has begun thinking of what life after Rider may look like. Will she go to grad school? Utilize her extra year of eligibility granted by the pandemic? Will she go play professionally? She said all options are on the table.

Playing professionally is the ultimate goal and playing for Israel’s national team this summer helped get her much closer to making that dream a reality. 

Her dad, who played for the Israeli national team decades ago, helped connect the team with his daughter, even though the whole trip was a daunting mental hurdle for her.

“It was extremely hard. It’s probably the hardest experience I have lived through so far,” Sher said. “I was not mentally ready at all.”

Rotondo knew she could physically handle it. He referred to Sher as one of the most competitive players he has ever worked with.

But Rotondo, like Sher, knew it was going to be a tough experience. Volleyball was not the issue. He wanted to make sure she knew the mental grind that was in store.

She was playing behind two setters already established on the team, which is something she was used to as Rider’s top option at setter. Thoughts of comparison to the other players began to swirl and galvanize her thoughts. She did not know how she fit within the team. 

“The serves, the way they pass, the way they approach everything is very quick,” Sher said.

Her mother was with her in Israel which helped ease the nerves but they were still present. Her mom drove her everywhere because you have to be 25 to rent a car. Sleeping was an issue too as she bounced around from place to place to sleep.

“I had to go stay at my mom’s best friend’s house and then I’d go back to my grandma’s and then we’d go to cousins and be exhausted,” Sher said. “I was drained.”

She kept reminding herself of the goal: to play professionally.

“[Israel is] definitely somewhere I could play and somewhere that showed interest,” Sher said. “It’s definitely probably a safe choice since I have family there.”

With the rough aspects, it was a fun experience overall getting to essentially be a tourist. Sher has relatives in Israel who have not seen her since she was a young girl. In her downtime, she enjoyed going out to local restaurants and walks on the beach. 

She loaded up on so many Mediterranean foods that she was desperate for a medium-well American steak.

Her senior year

Now that Sher has this experience under her belt, Rotondo is excited to see where it leads. He believes there is a curiosity and fire in his star setter to see how good she can be. Being curious is one of an athlete’s best traits in his eyes.

“I think she’s thinking differently,” Rotondo said. “I think she’s looking through things through a different lens of being ‘How can I help put my offense in a better chance, better position to succeed.’”

And so far Rider has done that. After a rough start to the season, the Broncs have won three of their last four games heading into Sept. 21’s game against Iona. In the game, Sher became Rider’s all time assists leader.

Follow Dylan Manfre on Twitter for the latest on Rider Athletics.

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