Bobby Henige began playing volleyball in his sophomore year of high school, and now is a three-time All-American.
The Phoenix, Arizona native recently had his fourth year of college cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak. But he still was able to add some awards to his decorated career.
After the season was cancelled, Henige was named the California Pacific Conference Player of the Year, a AVCA-NAIA All-American, and was selected as a First-Team AVCA All-American.
“Being named a three-time All-American is very special to me. Whenever I compete, I want to be the best at whatever I’m doing, so the award solidifies the effort I put in,” Henige said. “But more important to me is that my dad was a two-time All-American at MidAmerica Nazarene when he played basketball, and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps and be like him. So for me, this is something I’ve been looking forward to my entire life.”
Henige’s senior year with the Benedictine University Mesa men’s volleyball team was highlighted by his team-leading 86 blocks, which ranked him in the top 10 nationally. He also lead his team in aces with 39 and was second on the team in kills with 185.
But before claiming these awards, Henige grew up going to his older sister’s volleyball tournaments almost every weekend.
He later would join a coed team at his local YMCA with his sisters and friends. His mother, Jana Henige, lead that team and was his first volleyball coach. Then, Jana Henige and her daughter Kennedie, started and coached a boys’ club team for Henige and his friends.
Henige’s older sister Kennedie, was an All-State player three of her four years in high school and was heavily recruited by colleges and universities around the country.
“Seeing the success and love of the game that Kennedie was having and how good she was really caught his attention,” Henige’s father Bob Henige said.
The team Henige played for, coached by his mother and sister, went to Nationals, and before walking out of the venue, he had eight collegiate volleyball offers.
He also played three years of high school volleyball and was awarded All-District First-Team every year and All-State honorable mention his senior year. He also played basketball all four years in high school and was named a captain and All-District player.
“I didn’t start playing club volleyball till the summer of my senior year,” Henige said. “I played in two tournaments, one in California and the other in Dallas, and that’s when it started to change for me.”
He went into his senior year with just basketball scholarships, and after leaving those two tournaments, he had around 15 different volleyball scholarships to pick from. That’s when he realized that volleyball was what he wanted to do and that he had the potential to go far.
He was recruited to Ben U at the California Tournament his senior year. He originally committed to Division 1 Cal State North Ridge but wanted to see what his in-state options were so he could stay near his family. His father then found Ben U coach Ray Lewis’ email and sent him an email about Henige and when he could come watch him play.
“Coach Ray came to my court and watched me play, and after talking to him and taking a visit to the school, I felt that he was the coach I wanted to play for,” Henige said. “I could tell he cared about my potential as an athlete as well as a person. Ben U is a small school, but really has the family feel, which is what sold me.”
His first season ended with him being named the All-Independents Freshman of the Year after averaging 1.49 kills per set, .92 blocks per set and leading Ben U with a .347 hitting percentage.
His second year at Ben U was also the first year Lewis was named head coach. That was when the program went from being a .500 team, to only losing a few NAIA games a year. Henige played a major role in the program’s turnaround.
“Bobby works very hard to be the best at what he does. So, when I watch him play, there are moments that I scream and yell with the fans,” Jana Henige said. “Then I have moments where I am very quiet, taking it all in and being so proud that all of his hard work has paid off.”
Henige was named to the Second-Team All-Independents Conference as he recorded 214 kills, a .293 hitting percentage and 105 blocks. He and the Redhawks went to the National Championship and lost to Grand View.
“That’s when we developed our motto for the 2019 season which was, ‘unfinished business,'” Henige said. “Which meant the only thing on our mind was getting back to the finals again and winning.”
The following season, they lost just one game to an NAIA opponent, and only lost two sets in five games at Nationals. They beat Grand View in the semifinals and went on to win the championship.
In the National Championship Tournament, he set a record with 12 Blocks in one match. And then in the finals, the fans had “Thor’s” hammer in the stands and would swing it with very kill he had.
“When it was all over, I just felt a feeling of peace fall over me, and that all the hard work was worth it and paid off,” Henige said. “Being able to experience it with a team full of my best friends was very special and one of my favorite memories.”
At the end of the season, Henige was named an NAIA-AVCA First-Team All-American after recording 224 kills and 119 blocks while hitting .390. He also broke school records for blocks in a match and season and was an All-Tournament team selection at the NAIA National Tournament. He was also the number one ranked Middle Blocker in the country.
Then, in his fourth year, he earned his second and third All-American honors before the coronavirus cut the season short.
Just last Thursday, he and the team were preparing for a game the next day and were told that night that their season and school year were done.
“I was obviously upset because we are just getting to the post season and the team was looking very good and ready to defend our championship at nationals. I think not having the chance to defend our title is what bothers me most from our season being stopped, but thankfully the NAIA is offering another year of eligibility to senior athletes and I had to go back for another semester of school anyway so I will be playing again next season,” Henige said. “I feel bad for my teammates and coaches who put in work all year long and put us on the right track to win another title. We will just have to use it as motivation as we prepare for the next year.”
Henige finished out his short fourth season completing his goal of earning a conference award each year, as he was named to the First-Team All-Conference his sophomore to senior year after winning Freshman of the Year his first season.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my son,” Bob Henige said.
Now, he will return next season and look to add on to his career accolades. But after that, he has numerous options in front of him.
He has opportunities to tryout with the USA Nationals team, play professionally indoor in the USA or Overseas, play two-man sand volleyball professionally, or shoot for the Olympics.
But whatever he does, him and his family will remain close, and you may be hearing about his younger siblings soon.
“Bobby’s younger siblings are all so proud of him and look up to him more than he probably even realizes. He will help any of sisters or brothers in volleyball or any sport,” Jana Henige said. “Bobby wants his siblings to be the best they can be. I’ve heard him say that he hopes they will be better than him someday.”