He’s what his coaches and teammates describe as the embodiment of youthful force and skill. He stands at 6 feet and 3 inches above the hardwood floor and has started every game at middle blocker for the Emerson men’s volleyball team.
Freshman Connor Burton has already made a name for himself in his first season. With 107 kills and 36 total blocks to date, he provides the Lions with height and this stability in the middle.
The first time Burton touched a volleyball was at his high school tryouts, but the encounter would bring him on a journey that went beyond the his school’s courts.
“I didn’t make the basketball team my freshman year of high school, so I decided to start playing volleyball just out of the blue,” the writing, literature, and publishing major said. “I wanted to try something new, so I jumped into volleyball and I’ve liked it ever since.”
Burton attended Chaminade College Preparatory School in West Hills, Calif., where his volleyball schedule included games against elite teams.
“Back in high school, I played against two of the top-ranked teams in the country,” Burton said.
Burton said he feels that Emerson’s Great Northeast Athletic Conference has a similar atmosphere to that of his prior leagues.
“Now we play against teams that are pretty high level, nationally ranked, top 10,” Burton said, referring to reigning conference champion Rivier College.
His club team, Santa Monica Beach Club, competed in a multitude of tournaments around the country. The club was successful enough to enter the Junior Olympics. Burton competed in the Junior Olympics for three consecutive years. Although his team never took home a medal at the competition, the athlete played against an international array of teams, vying against teams from Canada, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.
“It was really fun. There’s a lot of great volleyball players from all over the world, ” Burton said. “A lot of the Mexican and Puerto Rican schools are volleyball schools. They go to school for a few hours, and then they just go and play volleyball the rest of the day. It’s a lot of fun to play against them, since they are very good and very competitive.”
The freshman’s teammates feel his prior experience helps to explain why the player is such a force on the court.
“Having a strong middle presence is something that you don’t see as much in Division III,” senior co-captain Stephen Selnick said.
Selnick said he recognizes that Burton will be a key player in future seasons.
“I think obviously he’s going to be a great option for us out of the middle,” he said. “I think he’s going to continue to be utilized well throughout his four years here.”
Head coach Ben Read said Burton’s skill and communication make him a great player. Read said that, at the beginning of the season, Burton was too vocal, so he calmed it down.
“He’s really shown a lot of leadership, and he’s been pretty vocal on the team,” said Read.
According to his coaches and teammates, the athlete’s next three years of college volleyball will continue to be defined by his strength in the middle.
Despite all of his accomplishments and accolades, however, Burton said he remains dedicated to improving himself as a player.
“I’m always trying to get better at every part of my game,” he said. “I’m always going to try and get better at blocking. That’s the part of my game I take the most pride in, so I always want to get better at that.”