Men's Volleyball Opens 2009 Season on Friday
MALIBU, Calif. -- The #3-ranked Pepperdine men's volleyball team opens the 2009 regular season this Friday night (Jan. 9) with a non-conference match against NAIA power California Baptist at 7 p.m. in Firestone Fieldhouse.
The Waves are 5-0 against the Lancers all-time in a series that began in 2003. CBU has won six NAIA titles, including four straight from 2004-07.
Following is Pepperdine's season outlook for the 2009 season:
At least a few people think that the 2009 Pepperdine men’s volleyball team will challenge for a national championship yet again this season. The Waves are ranked #3 in the preseason Bison/AVCA poll and were named the co-favorite in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
Marv Dunphy, on the other hand, has a bit more of a wait-and-see attitude heading into the campaign, his 26th in charge of the Waves.
"This team will reach its potential, but I’m not sure what that potential is right now," said Dunphy, who has coached four Pepperdine teams to NCAA titles and has an overall record of 469-184. "We’ll get better as the year goes on. During the fall we didn’t meet a lot of the standards that I’m accustomed to seeing. So we’re a little bit of a work in progress with several question marks. But I am sure by the end of the year we will be as good as we can be."
The Waves expected to have nearly the entire core unit returning from the 2008 squad that reached the title match of the NCAA Championships. The only loss among the starters due to graduation was that of four-time All-American setter Jonathan Winder.
But Pepperdine’s lineup took a big hit when it was determined in the fall that senior outside hitter J.D. Schleppenbach (Ventura, Calif./Ventura HS) would need shoulder surgery and would miss the 2009 season. He finished third on the squad last year in both kills (3.01) and digs (1.04) and played a huge part in Pepperdine’s postseason success, which included an MPSF Tournament title.
"We have to replace players at two key positions," said Dunphy, who is assisted by former Pepperdine All-Americans Scott Wong and Beau Daniels. "These are two crucial roles and they are significant losses. But we’re looking forward to letting the young players take their turn. It’s their time and we’ll see what they can do."
A large part of the preseason respect given to Pepperdine is because of senior Paul Carroll (Forster, Australia), who returns for his final season as the starting opposite. The two-time AVCA All-American first teamer, who was named Volleyball Australia’s top male player in the nation last year, is one of collegiate volleyball’s most feared hitters. He led the nation in 2008 in both kills (6.54) and points (7.56). He ranks seventh all-time at Pepperdine in kills with 1,440.
"It’s obvious that Paul has carried a very big load for us," Dunphy said. "That will have to continue. He is a very smart hitter with really good range and he sees the game well."
Sophomore Cory Riecks (Auburn, Calif./Placer HS) was a starting outside hitter last season along with Schleppenbach and he had a very strong freshman season, finishing second on the squad with 3.22 kills per game.
"Cory hits high and hard and did a good job for us last year," Dunphy said. "Last year we didn’t ask him to pass much because J.D. covered so much of the court, but this year we’ll need him to pass more."
Several others are in the running to start at outside hitter. Senior Matt McKee (Aurora, Ill./Aurora West HS) played little his first two seasons but had an important role last year, first as a starter when Carroll was injured, and then as one of the team’s first substitutes the rest of the time. He averaged 2.54 kills per game.
Redshirt freshman outside hitter Chase Ross (Carlsbad, Calif./Carlsbad HS) did not see any playing time last season, but he was part of the USA Beach Volleyball squad this past summer. Junior outside hitter Sean Pedersen (Evergreen Park, Ill./Mount Carmel HS) is in his first season at Pepperdine after transferring from Cal State Northridge. He played setter for the Matadors but is being converted to outside hitter.
Replacing Winder at setter will be sophomore Kasey Crider (Granite Bay, Calif./Granite Bay HS). Although he only saw time as a serving and defensive specialist last season, it was a valuable learning experience and Dunphy believes he will do fine growing into the role.
"Kasey is finding his way at the position," Dunphy said. "He still has a ways to go, which is what you’d expect at this point. But he’ll be good. He competes well and he’s very composed."
Last year’s starting middle blockers were senior Mark Hulse (Evanston, Ill./Evanston Township HS/Rutgers-Newark) and sophomore Tyler Jaynes (Granite Bay, Calif./Granite Bay HS). Hulse averaged 0.64 kills and 1.36 blocks and Jaynes averaged 1.30 kills and 1.18 blocks. They’ll be pushed by two newcomers, junior Rodnei Santos (Sao Paulo, Brazil/Colegio Campos Salles/BYU) and freshman Matt Pollock (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg HS). Santos started at BYU as a 2007 freshman, then transferred to Pepperdine last spring and sat out the 2008 season.
Junior libero Sean Grubbs (Newport Beach, Calif./Newport Harbor HS/Irvine Valley CC) was excellent in his first season for the Waves last year, averaging 1.88 digs per game, and he is expected to man the position again.
Other returners hoping to step up and make their mark are sophomore libero Andrew Kurzeka (West Hills, Calif./Notre Dame HS), junior setter Kyle Luongo (Palmdale, Calif./Highland HS/Pierce CC), junior middle blocker Patrick Powers (Fort Worth, Texas/Country Day HS), junior outside hitter Brent Schirripa (Los Angeles, Calif./Crespi Carmelite HS) and redshirt freshman outside hitter Trevor Van Uden (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks HS). Freshman outside hitter Beau Vandeweghe (Carlsbad, Calif./La Costa Canyon HS) rounds out the squad.