Recently in Men's Volleyball Category

David Wieczorek, a junior outside hitter on the men's volleyball team, played for the U.S. National Team this summer. He shared what this opportunity meant to him and his goals for the upcoming season:

David  Wieczorek

Q: This summer you had to opportunity to play for the U.S. National Team! What was the process of getting invited and making the team like?

A: The process was really just an email from the assistant coach. The email came toward the end of the season and they were pretty interested. I think it speaks to how you play during the season and how your name gets out. They are looking at who is doing what in the college season. Matt Fuerbringer emailed me and we had a good dialogue going. Then I got the invite.

Q: Was playing for the national team something you had always wanted to do?

A: It was definitely the ultimate goal. It has been my dream ever since I was a little kid to do it. Probably since I was three years old, I always wanted to play for the National Team. Hopefully I can continue to do it.

Q: While you were playing on the team, where did you get to travel to and what did you do there?

A: We were mainly practicing in Anaheim the whole summer and the majority of the team got to travel all over. Since I was the second-youngest guy in the gym, I stayed in Anaheim training. When I got to travel, I went to Canada and got to play in the Pan American Games, which was awesome.

Q: How does playing for the national team compare to playing for Pepperdine?

A: Pepperdine prepared me pretty well because Marv (Dunphy), Dave (Hunt), and (Sean) Rooney have all had experience with the national team. Rooney has a gold medal playing for the team, Marv has a gold medal coaching and Dave has been with the women's team forever. You can see the resemblance between training at Pepperdine and training for the national team. Things are pretty similar like the standards set, the technique and form. The only difference is not playing with people who get recruited to your school. They are from all over.

Q: What was it like being teammates with players that you have been playing against in the past?

A: The first week it was kind of weird getting used to. I played against these people for two years, so when I went up against them I thought, "Oh I don't really like that guy." After being there, they are probably some of the best friends I had. They are really good guys. Even the guys who I was competing with for spots were really good guys and good friends. There were some really cool bonds created.

Q: While in the Pan American Cup, you played against a former Pepperdine alum in Maurice Torres, who plays for Puerto Rico. Did you get the chance to talk with him while you were there?

A: I actually ran into him in the elevator at our hotel and we talked the last night. He was so genuine and really nice. You could tell he was a Wave. He played really well during the tournament. His level was above and beyond a lot of the players there and it was really cool to see.

Q: How will this experience affect you moving forward in your volleyball career?

A: I think the opportunity to be at the USA gym was incredible and a dream come true. I want to definitely go back and hopefully I will get the invite. Things went really well this summer. Getting in those reps over the four months this summer did wonders for my game. Every aspect of my game improved and I am excited to see that come out in this gym. It has given me a lot of confidence being able to play at that level with those guys and compete and realize that I belong there, and in certain instances I can beat them. It has been good for my own mental confidence.

Q: What was your favorite part of being a part of the national team?

A: There were two things. The experience of getting to play with and represent the U.S, while also working with some of the best coaches was amazing. Also, getting to know the guys that I would normally play against and becoming good friends with them. It was like a family in a way. We were training for four months and got to play. It was incredible to be able to play and enhance my game while also creating great relationships and realizing these guys are awesome.

Q: You also had a switch of coaches over this summer. What are your thoughts on Marv Dunphy retiring and David Hunt being named head coach?

A: First and foremost, Marv is awesome. He is still around, and I have a class with him, so I get to see him often. I know that he will still be helping us. I am really sad that he is retiring because he was the one who recruited me and is a big part of my life. I understand that when it is time, it's time. On the flipside, I am really excited for Dave. I have talked to him and I am excited for the season. He is so good at what he does and he puts a lot of work into everything he does, and he has helped my game so much since I have been here.

Q: What are your personal and team goals for this season?

A: My personal goal is to keep continuing to get better and improve my game. Another goal would be to continue playing with the national team and train with them and hopefully one day make it on an Olympic team. I think the goal for me is to continue to improve and think about how I can make our team better by enhancing my skills to help us win. The team goal is the NCAA championship. We have a new coach, which is awesome. He is going to do great and he already is doing great. Everyone's goal is to keep getting better over these next couple of months and be the team we want to be in May when the National Championships come around.

Men's Volleyball Q&A: Weston Barnes

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Redshirt senior Weston Barnes recently took a trip to the NCAA Headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, to take part in the NCAA Career in Sports Forum, a leadership development conference for student-athletes looking to continue a career in sports. Weston is a returning member of the Waves Leadership Council:


Weston  Barnes

Q: What was the primary focus of the NCAA Career in Sports Forum?


A: The forum was designed to allow student-athletes to explore career paths within intercollegiate athletics and connect with a variety of different leaders in the industry of college sports. Another purpose of the forum was to develop leadership traits and build connections with peers and mentors.


Q: Who all was selected to go?


A: There were 240 student-athletes from all over the country, covering all three NCAA divisions. It was a great mix of student-athletes from every sport. Being the only Pepperdine representative, people would identify me by my school and say something like, "Yo Pepperdine, what up?!"


Q: Did you meet a lot of people from different schools in similar stages of life?


A: I found it very easy to connect with people because we all held the same mindset. It seemed like 90 percent of the student-athletes at the forum had either just graduated or were within a year of graduating. Most of us will be facing some big career decisions soon, and I think all of us are striving to establish a career in athletics. A common theme amongst us is that we share a passion for improving the life of student-athletes, and that really brought us together. I connected with some really cool people who were driven in the same direction as me, and getting to bond with these people made the trip extremely fulfilling.


Q: What was your biggest take-away from the forum?


A: I took in more from the leadership development seminars and activities than anything. I learned what it means to have a purpose and how to identify that purpose. Furthermore, I learned to use my purpose to build a personal brand and convey my brand in a proper manner. Ultimately my favorite learning experience was a personality assessment that I engaged in with the other student-athletes. I discovered my personality type to be Conscientious, which tends to be analytical and systematic. Then they put us in groups typed by personality. It was mind blowing to see the similarities among us. We discussed ways to understand and improve interaction among the different personalities in a group setting. Having the assessment at our fingertips improved communication among student-athletes for the rest of the weekend. I gained a lot from the personality assessment.


Q: Do you have any fun memories of outside activities?


A:  Picture this, 100-plus student athletes all in the same restaurant to watch game one of the NBA Finals. The place was on fire because of a heated rivalry of Warriors and Cavs fans that continued throughout the whole weekend. You could literally eavesdrop on conversations of people arguing about whether LeBron is the greatest player of all time ... I mean, come on, I thought we were all college educated here.


Q: How did it feel to be nominated to attend the conference by Senior Associate Director of Athletics Karina Herold?


A: I was thrilled when Karina said she would nominate me. I had only been a WLC member for one year so I thought my chances of being selected were slim, but, I asked James Gehrels to review my application. He and I made sure my application was on point, and I think that really helped my chances. Once I received word that I was accepted, I was so fired up for the trip and I don't think that excitement died until I left Indy. With 240 student-athletes around, the energy was high at all times.

Michael Wexter, a sophomore on the Pepperdine men's volleyball team, gives us insight into his experience with the sport and his time here in Malibu:

Michael  Wexter

Q: Give us the insider scoop on how the season is going.

A: We are doing pretty well. I think that we surprised some teams, but we lost a few games that we should have won as well, so it is going both ways. As a team we are getting better every day.

Q: What is your favorite Marv-ism?

A: For sure, "I think we're good here." He basically says it whenever we are done with anything in practice.

Q: Who or what inspires you to compete?

A: I have always wanted to compete at the highest level as I could. Seeing professional athletes, such as the Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler, work really hard motivates me. For example, Butler came back into the season as an All-Star after having a decent season the year before and he was named the Most Improved Player. The reason that he got so much better was that over the summer he gave up all electronics and lived in a house with his friends. The only thing they could do when they got bored was go to the gym and workout. Seeing people who do stuff like that makes me realize that there are always people who are working harder than me and that's what makes me want to be so much better.

Q: Coming from Illinois, what do you miss most?

A: The pizza. Definitely the pizza. And then, of course, my family. The pizza out here is just not the same.

Q: Has your family been able to make it to watch you play?

A: My family has been able to come out both last year and this year. It is nice having them in the stands, but I really enjoying spending the time with them when I am not on the court. That's more important to me. The fact they get to watch me play is pretty cool too.

Q: What do you love most about living in Malibu?

A: The weather. I was never a big fan of winter, so coming here where it is 68 and sunny every single day is pretty nice. Last year, I put on shorts and a t-shirt every day and never looked at the weather.

Q: I heard that you did gymnastics in your youth? Tell me about that experience.

A: I started gymnastics when I was younger because my siblings were doing it and were good at it. I can't do anything cool anymore because what I learned all went away as I grew. I've got a pretty good cartwheel still, though. I think that gymnastics when you are younger helps a lot with hand-eye coordination, being stronger and being more active. It definitely made me stronger and want to compete more.

Q: Has did your family's involvement in athletics affect your decision to play volleyball?

A: Ever since I was a little kid, my family drove all over the place because my siblings had all of their practices and I did not really have a choice about going into athletics. There was a point when I was in basketball, soccer, football and volleyball all in the same season. I literally had days where I would have different practices all day, then I would go home and do homework and go to sleep.

Q: What do you see as your role on the team on and off the court?

A: I don't know what my role is, but I do know that it is changing as I get older. Last year, I was trying to learn as much as I could. Matt Tarantino was one of the best volleyball players I've ever seen. Coming from Chicago, I had to relearn volleyball to play at Pepperdine. This year, I think I am trying to be more of a leader on the court, but I am still a younger guy, so I just do my best to pitch in wherever I can.

Q: What is your favorite memory from your time at Pepperdine?

A: I have a pretty short-term memory when it comes to volleyball. A lot of the stuff I remember comes from watching film. I go back and rewatch all the plays I made. One of my favorite moments is probably when I came to my first open gym. I was so used to being at a certain level of play, but the other guys showed me that there was so much more competition and everyone pushed me to be there and get better.

James Gehrels, a senior on the men's volleyball team, has truly made waves throughout his time here at Pepperdine. Besides his achievements on the court, he's a three-time Pepperdine scholar-athlete, co-president of the Waves Leadership Council and a member of the NCAA national Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. His most recent accomplishment was being named NCAA Division I SAAC Vice Chair. He talks a little bit about what this means as well as his future goals and plans:

James  Gehrels

Q: So what does this position of NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Vice Chair look like for you?

A: As Vice Chair of DI SAAC I work with three other student-athletes and some NCAA staff members to help guide, plan and facilitate everything that the 32 student-athletes on the committee do. These responsibilities include planning out meetings and strategically prioritizing our goals and objectives for the next year. 

Q: What does it mean to you to have this title?

A: I am extremely humbled and excited to have been elected to this position. I have represented the student-athletes of Pepperdine and the West Coast Conference for the past two and a half years and now to be able to serve them in this role for another year is an incredible honor. 

Q: How did attaining this title come about?

A: At the most recent NCAA Convention in Nashville there were elections that were held for vice chairs for this coming year and I was fortunate enough to be selected by my fellow committee members.

Q: What are you most looking forward to accomplish within the position?

A: I'm most looking forward to being able to have an even greater impact on the lives of all Division I student-athletes both current and in the future as well. The decisions that our group helps make will impact the lives of those to come, which is an incredible honor but also a great responsibility.

Q: Since this is your senior year, is this a position you'll pass on to someone else after you graduate?

A: This position of Vice Chair isn't something I pass down, however serving as the West Coast Conference representative is something that another student-athlete will be elected to following the 2017-2018 school year. (Note: national SAAC rules allow Gehring to serve as Vice Chair for 2017-18, even after his graduation and final competition as a student-athlete.)

Q: How did being a Wave help you get to such a prestigious national position?

A: I wouldn't be in the position I am today without all of the help and support that I have received from Pepperdine Athletics and the university as a whole. Being able to represent Pepperdine in this way is an incredible experience and something I will be forever grateful for. It truly has given me a platform to have an impact on our campus here in Malibu, but also the ability to spread what makes Pepperdine such an incredible and special place to others around the country. 

Q: What is your favorite memory to date about working with the Pepperdine, conference and/or national SAAC committees?

A: There are so many amazing memories that it is nearly impossible to put my finger on one or another, but a couple that really stick out would be attending NCAA conventions or the NACDA and Affiliates convention, and of course our #RefueltheWaves crowdfunding campaign which raised funds to directly impact our meal and refueling options here in athletics.

Q: Any plans for what you want to do after graduation (and does athletics factor in at all)?

A: I plan to hopefully attend grad school upon graduation and study Sport Management and Business Administration. I ultimately want to get into collegiate athletic administration one day by becoming a director of athletics. I hope to get there by fundraising and building relationships and continuing to improve the student-athlete experience along the way.

Q: Do you have any other reflections as you look back on your time here at Pepperdine?

A: I'm just so thankful for my coaches and administrators here at Pepperdine who have helped open doors for me to be successful well beyond my time here at Pepperdine. Those relationships and friendships I have made will last a lifetime and for that I am forever grateful.

It's all in the family! This year, Pepperdine became home to not one, but two members of the Dyer family. Heidi and Noah Dyer of San Clemente, California, are now both rocking the orange and blue. Heidi, a sophomore business administration major, is an All-American in beach volleyball and was a WCC All-Freshman team member in indoor. Noah, a freshman business administration major, will be a player to watch on the men's volleyball team this year. The Dyer siblings give us insight into growing up together and now being at Pepperdine at the same time:


Q: Explain the dynamic of having your little brother/big sister on campus and playing volleyball at Pepperdine with you?

Heidi: In comparison to last year when I didn't have him here, I find it so funny that I'll be walking around campus and just casually run into my brother. It's really weird so I'm still getting used to that. I think for him he hasn't been here without me here so I think it isn't as weird for him when we run into each other.

Noah:  It's cool because we have always gone to school together and been good friends so it's fun to be doing the same thing through college. It's also a good support system being there for each other.

Q: Heidi, did you know Noah was interested in Pepperdine before you were recruited?

Heidi: No, I don't think he was even thinking about college when I was being recruited. After I got to Pepperdine, I told my high school coach, who knows Noah well, that even though he was talking to a bunch of colleges, I knew he would end up at Pepperdine. Because we are so similar, it made sense that if Pepperdine was the perfect place for me, it would be for him as well.

Q: Noah, were you interested in Pepperdine prior to Heidi signing, or did it help that she was already here and had such a great freshman experience?

Noah: Yeah, I had heard about Pepperdine when I was going into high school and had heard great things about the volleyball program. But, Heidi already being here and telling me about it also made me more interested in going here.

Q: Did you guys always get along growing up?

Heidi: I have five siblings and Noah was always the one I was probably the closest to ... mostly because we are similar people, but also because we are only 17 months apart. However, being so close, he knew the exact buttons to push and he pushed them well! It's safe to say there were quite a few punches thrown and chases chased but for the most part we were really close.

Noah: We got along really well most of the time. We had our fair share of fights but we usually resolved them pretty quickly.

Q: Did you play together or against each other on the court growing up. Was it more for fun, or was there a sibling rivalry?

Heidi: Growing up we learned to play volleyball on the beach first, and then as we grew in the indoor game, we played a ton in our backyard in the grass. That's where we competed against each other and the rest of our siblings a ton. However, we have played a few tourneys together and we once won the Valentine's Day open beach tournament together. We have played together a bunch in Seaside, Oregon, in 4-man and 2-man tourneys when our family took our RV up there for the family trip. They were always fun but he yelled at me a lot so naturally I would yell back.

Noah: Yeah, we played a lot together and against each other on the beach. We won a few coed tournaments too but we didn't play too many because we would sometimes get pretty mad at each other because we are pretty competitive.

Q: Heidi, after having such a successful freshman year, what are your hopes/goals for this season, and how have those goals been shaped by your successes?

Heidi: Last year just playing with my partner Taylor Racich and the rest of the beach team was one of the biggest honors I have received. They are one of the hardest working group of girls I know and playing with them, I couldn't help but to want to work just as hard as them. One thing Nina Matthies told me during this past season was that sometimes you don't get recognized when you think you should, and then you'll get recognized when you think you shouldn't. That has stuck with me ever since. And getting AVCA All-American with Taylor was such an honor, but it felt weird because I felt like my entire team deserved it as well.

Q: Heidi, what kind of impact do you think Noah will have on the men's squad this year?

Heidi: I think Noah is a great leader in his own quiet but steady way. And even though he is a freshman, I think he will do well in contributing to the team in that aspect along with his hard-working character. I think he was one of the best players in his class in the nation and if he transitions to the changes of the college game, he will do very well in his freshman year and the years to come.

Q: Heidi, what is your favorite part about being a Pepperdine athlete, specifically?

Heidi: My favorite part is the community that comes with it. I feel like at Pepperdine, all the different sports teams are very close with each other and it's easy to know all the athletes. There are very few athletes that I can say I have never even seen before and I really like that about Pepperdine.

Q: Heidi, what was one piece of advice that you gave your brother leading up to his arrival at Pepperdine?

Heidi: Well, this one is hard because I actually gave him lots of advice in all the little aspects of how life as a student-athlete works at Pepperdine. But one of the biggest things I think I told him was that I am convinced Marv Dunphy secretly runs the entire school and he should always be on his good side.

Q: Noah, did your sister give you a certain piece of helpful advice leading up to your arrival at Pepperdine? What was it?

Noah: She's given me a bunch of bits and pieces of advice but the one that stuck out to me the most was to get my homework out of the way early so that I could enjoy Pepperdine without being stressed about homework.

Q: Tell me about what you love most about your little brother/big sister?

Heidi: The thing I love most about Noah is that we have the exact same sense of humor. First of all he's funny ... sometimes ... but second is that I can always count on him to appreciate anything that I think is funny such as memes or certain funny human individuals. And one other big thing I love is that no one can tell him what to do or who to be. He is going to be exactly who he is no matter what anybody tries to tell him to be.

Noah: Probably the best thing about Heidi is that she's fun to hang out with. We have a lot of common interests like going to the beach and playing volleyball so we're really good friends.

Q: Noah, did you catch a lot of Heidi's indoor and beach matches last year?  What did you think of your big sister's accomplishments?

Noah: I saw a few of them and I thought she really stepped it up. It's tough being a freshman and starting in a new position like outside but I thought she did really well. Also, I saw a few of her beach matches and was super stoked when she made the ones team and was named an All-American.

Q: Noah, aside from athletics, what have you enjoyed most about your Pepperdine experience so far?

Noah: So far, it's been pretty awesome meeting a bunch of really cool people and getting to know them.

Q: Noah, name one thing that you have placed on your bucket list at Pepperdine.

Noah: Definitely the number one thing on my bucket list is to win an NCAA championship.

David Wieczorek redshirted his first season at Pepperdine, but a year later he is an integral part of the Pepperdine men's volleyball team, averaging 2.76 kills and 0.49 aces per set. A Chicago native, he knew he wanted to come to Pepperdine as soon as he began playing volleyball. Wieczorek discusses his experiences on the team and the excitement of competing as a college athlete.

David  Wieczorek

Q: What was it like to redshirt last year?

A: It was tough to redshirt, but it ended up being one of the best things I could have done. I got the opportunity to train for a year under the best coaches in the nation without sacrificing a year of eligibility.

Q: Did you know you were going to step onto the court this season and become such an influential player?

A: At the end of the day, Coach (Marv) Dunphy decides who plays and who doesn't. I trained hard over the summer, during the fall training block, and even spent hours in the gym on Christmas Eve and Christmas with my dad to get where I am at currently. I focused on working hard both on and off the court to play this season. The hard work and countless hours I have put in are paying off. However, I keep training hard every day to keep improving my game. I'm thankful for Coach Dunphy giving me the opportunity to start here at Pepperdine.

Q: What is it like to compete at this level?

A: It is amazing. I love the high level of competition and intensity in every match. There is no such thing as an easy match or easy practice at this level.

Q: What do you love most about playing for Pepperdine?

A: I love playing for Coach Dunphy and the program. Playing at Pepperdine is a dream come true. Ever since I discovered college volleyball, I knew that I wanted to come to Pepperdine.

Q: How do you like playing for such a legendary coach?

A: I love playing for Coach Dunphy. He is the reason I came to Pepperdine and he is continuing to make me both a better player and a better person. He is a genuine person and an amazing coach. Marv has had a huge impact on my life.

Q: Give us a Marv Dunphy story!

A: My favorite memory of Marv is when he told one of our players last year, "golden retrievers make good dogs, not blockers."

Q: How is the balance between college athletics and academics?

A: It is tough at times, but I work hard in the classroom to get good grades. However, being a student-athlete can sometimes throw a curve ball at you. Last semester, our weights schedule changed, and I had to run from the weight room to the SAC in under five minutes every day except Wednesday. At the end of the day, I'm proud of being a scholar-athlete, and I plan to continue being one for the rest of my time here at Pepperdine.  

Q: What is your favorite moment from this season so far?

A: My favorite moment of the season has to be upsetting Hawaii at home. That was an awesome experience.

Redshirt senior Tommy Carmody now plays for Pepperdine after the University of the Pacific ended its men's volleyball program. He is working towards his master's degree in global business. Carmody graduated from Pacific in 2015 with an undergraduate degree in engineering management. During his time at Pacific, he lettered three seasons and earned All-MPSF honorable mention in 2014.
Tommy  Carmody

Q: After Pacific cut the men's volleyball program, did you think you would play again?

A: Yes, I was sure I was going to play again.  I just was not sure when or where.

Q: What sparked your interest in Pepperdine?

A: Initially when I was being recruited in high school I really liked Pepperdine, but they did not have an engineering program so I decided on Pacific. This was another chance to be able to play here.

Q: How did you get connected to Pepperdine?

A: I was recruited here back in high school, so I knew Marv (Dunphy) and David (Hunt) somewhat. I sent an email to Marv to get reconnected about the possibility of coming to Pepperdine.

Q: How much time did you take off in between programs? What was it like to come back and compete again at such a high level?

A: All time taken into consideration, it was a little more than one and half years without being in a men's volleyball program. It was a great feeling coming back and being able to compete at such a high level and having a couple weeks to get back in the swing of things.

Q: Has it been difficult to transition between coaching styles?

A: It's been really easy. Marv, David, and Sean (Rooney) are really great coaches to be able to have, and they have a coaching style that really works well with me.

Q: What was your first impression when you met the Pepperdine coaches?

A: The first time I met the coaches was way back when I was 17 so I'm not too sure, but I was probably pretty excited about the possibility of playing here for them.

Q: How has the time on the court been for you so far?

A: The time has been good. I really enjoy all the guys on the team, being able to play with them every day and being able to learn from such a great coaching staff. 

Q: You're currently leading the MPSF in blocks. Do you ever look into rankings or your stats to fuel you for the game?

A: Not really, it's something that comes up but not something I go after in games. I'm there to better the team and win some games however I can.

Q: You're getting your master's in global business. How does graduate coursework compare to undergrad?

A: The coursework is a lot different. The classes are in four-hour blocks that happen once a week as opposed to multiple times per week for shorter intervals. It's a faster pace of learning.

Q: How is it going to grad school and still competing in college athletics?

A: The class schedule is a little more inflexible, so there is a little more time constraint with practice and class. There's a lot more time spent outside of class learning, but with good time management it's very possible to get everything done efficiently.

Q: What's your favorite memory so far with the Pepperdine team?

A: My favorite memory so far on the court has to be playing against UC Irvine and battling to win the first set.

With fall scrimmages in the books and men's volleyball season getting its official start next month, senior Matt Tarantino discusses his time as a Wave and his hopes for this season. The only returning starter from last year, Tarantino has appeared in 74 matches and 271 sets over three seasons.

Matt  Tarantino

Q: Are you excited to head into your senior season?

A: I am very excited for the season. Each year has something new, and is such a fun experience.

Q: What are your hopes for your final collegiate season?

A: My hopes for this final season are to continue to improve my game each and every match and leading the team to compete at the highest level that we know we are capable of.

Q: How is the team looking so far this fall?

A: The team this year is very different from last year. We graduated quite a few guys from last year but the young guys have done a great job of stepping in and being ready to play at a high level. The entire team is very competitive and working hard to improve every day.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give your teammates as they head into the season?

A: One thing I want my teammates to know before going into the season is that it is a long process and we have to continue to compete and improve each day. Each match brings a different challenge and we must be able to adjust.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to young athletes trying to play volleyball in college?

A: I would tell young athletes that the best way to compete at the college level is to have a high volleyball IQ. Watch as much film as possible and be able to know different situations of the game, as well as be able to read what is going on during each play.

Q: What is your favorite Pepperdine memory from your past four years?

A: There is no way to pick just one memory while being a part of this team. The whole experience of learning and growing with the guys is what makes this experience really special.

Q: What will you bring to the table as a senior with lots of on-court experience?

A: As an old guy on the court I will be able to help the younger guys to stay focused and not let their emotions get the best of them. I hope to lead the team to be as competitive as possible and play Waves volleyball.

Q: What impressed you the most with your teammates in the past scrimmages?

A: The thing that has impressed me the most with my teammates is how dedicated they are to improve as individuals and as a team. Many guys go beyond what is required to continue to improve. We work really well as a team and we are able to trust each other on the court.

Q: What newcomer do you think will make a big impact for the Waves this year?

A: I can't pick just one guy that I think will have a big impact. We have so many newcomers that will have a large and positive impact for us this year.

Q: Do you have any plans or hopes for after graduation?

A: My hope for after graduation is to be able to play professional volleyball in Europe. It would be an awesome experience to travel the world while playing the game I love.

Three current members of the Pepperdine men's volleyball team played with USA National Teams at international competitions in late summer. Junior setter Soren Dion-Kindem and sophomore outside hitter Colby Harriman competed for the U.S. Junior National Team at the FIVB U21 World Championships in Mexico in September (the U.S. took 11th place). And, freshman Michael Wexter played with the USA Boys' Youth National Team at the FIVB U19 Boys' World Championship in Argentina in August (the U.S. finished in seventh place). We asked all three of them about playing for college and country:

Q: What is it like to represent the USA?

Dion-Kindem: Representing the USA while playing is quite the feeling. Whenever I step out on the court and they raise the USA flag and play the National Anthem, an overwhelming sense of pride runs through me, one that can't be recreated. It's an honor and a privilege to wear USA on your chest and it demands the utmost respect. 

Harriman: There's no better feeling than representing your country while playing the sport you love. Every time I put on the USA jersey and hear the anthem playing before matches I get goose bumps. It never gets old.

Wexter: It's pretty crazy to represent the U.S. for any sport, I think. The level of play is so high and everyone is so good from every country it's kind of crazy.

Q: How does the level of competition compare to that of Pepperdine (or high school)?

Dion-Kindem: The level of competition at the U21 World Championships was the overall highest I have ever played against. Most players in the tournament have either been playing professionally already or have the opportunity in their near future, but Pepperdine has always produced the same caliber of players as well. Training in our gym provides an opportunity to train against the best in the country every day. 

Harriman: At Worlds, most of the guys from other countries are already professional athletes -- highly paid professional athletes in many cases. Despite this fact, we won some great matches and were very close to winning others. We never really got blown out. I feel that Soren and I were really well prepared for the tournament because we've been playing together in the USA pipeline for many years with some great coaches, but also because Marv Dunphy has the international experience and conveys the necessary knowledge to us.

Wexter: High school vs. USA is no comparison. Everyone on the U.S. team is at such a high level of play that everything is kind of expected to be done right, whereas in high school I was the only player on my team that even went D-1 and the competition of other teams too was a lot lower.

Q: What was the most difficult part of adjusting to a new team?

Dion-Kindem: The most difficult part of adjusting to a new team would have to be chemistry and experience. Though all of us on the junior team were good friends, we don't play together year-round so higher levels of communication and adaptability to adversity is a necessity, which isn't always the easiest task. 

Harriman: Socially, it was not difficult adjusting to the team. What's great about the volleyball community is that it's very small and everyone knows everyone. However, we don't play together every day so it's a little tough getting used to everyone's tendencies. A huge part of volleyball is not only anticipating what the other team will do but also what your teammates will do. Luckily, Soren and I know each other really well and can count on one another.

Wexter: The most difficult part of playing with a new team was just getting used to the sets of the new setter. We ran a little bit of a faster system than I was used to, and the sets came at a completely different tempo that was difficult to get used to.

Q: What is your most memorable on-court moment this summer?

Dion-Kindem: My most memorable on-court moment was playing in front of a packed house against the host country Mexico, on Mexican Independence Day. Needless to say the energy in the venue was insane, but gave our team so much energy and made the experience so fun. The atmosphere was something I will never forget. 

Harriman: Playing Russia, the best team in the world at this age group, is always a fun experience. All of their players are in the Russian Super League: Zenit Kazan, Dynamo Moscow, and other clubs that dominate Europe. Whenever we get an opportunity to play them, it's an awesome environment and getting a stuff-block or a huge kill against them is a highlight.

Wexter: Stuff blocking the Turkey outside in the fifth set with the score at 15-all.

Q: What is your favorite off-court moment this summer? 

Dion-Kindem: My favorite off-the-court moment in Mexico was simply playing cards and hanging out with all the guys during our breaks throughout the day. Like I said earlier, we all got along great and I left knowing I had made 10 new amazing friendships.

Harriman: Because we were in Tijuana and Mexicali, Mexico, we weren't allowed to do too much outside of our hotel for safety reasons. We had to get a police escort whenever we left the hotel as a team. Regardless, we still had plenty of fun outside of the gym. For me, I really enjoyed interacting with the fans. Signing autographs, taking pictures, and just talking with Mexican volleyball fans was really cool. They are really passionate about the sport and they treated us like celebrities.

Wexter: Hanging with all of the guys on the team in the Argentina Wal-Mart. It was so much different than ours and everyone on the team was kind of lost inside of the store together.

Q: How has this experience impacted your volleyball career, particularly back at Pepperdine?

Dion-Kindem: My experience in Mexico has impacted my volleyball career because I've experienced playing the highest level of volleyball in the world for my age group. Not only will I take back information I learned from my coaches, but I have also taken back information that I learned from watching the best teams play: the systems they run, the techniques they use. There is so much valuable information at tournaments like those that we can bring back to Pepperdine to make our team even better. 

Harriman: Volleyball is probably more mental than it is physical and playing at the highest level in the world for this age group really tests you in both of those aspects. Coming out of this tournament, we are much tougher mentally than we were at the start of the summer. We now know what it takes to win at the highest level and that is going to translate into this upcoming season.

Wexter: This experience taught me a lot about volleyball, and made me a better all-around player. It was the first time since I had been playing that I really couldn't rely completely on my athleticism, and had to really work on my volleyball skills and IQ.

In an effort to raise money to increase and enhance nutritional food options for our student-athletes, Pepperdine Athletics has launched a week-long crowdfunding initiative called 'Refuel the Waves'. Junior men's volleyball player and co-president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Jimmy Gehrels has given us more insight into what exactly this initiative means to Pepperdine and its student-athletes:
James  Gehrels

Q: What is the #RefuelTheWaves initiative?

A:
#RefuelTheWaves is our student-led fundraising initiative that is trying to improve refueling options for all 270 Pepperdine student-athletes

Q: What specific role are you playing with the initiative?

A: As Pepperdine SAAC co-president, when I was approached about helping to lead this initiative I couldn't say no. This campaign is really being run through the student-athletes and so I am helping SAAC lead our fellow student-athletes through this.

Q: Why has Pepperdine Athletics started this initiative?

A: Pepperdine Athletics started this campaign to one, help improve the student-athlete experience, and two, to help our coaches recruit and attract the top student-athletes nationwide. Due to NCAA deregulation of food rules, this is something that almost had to be done.

Q: How is #RefuelTheWaves going to benefit student-athletes at Pepperdine?

A: Every single dollar raised from this campaign will go directly to student-athletes, who through a committee will explore different refueling programs and options that will ultimately be the best for all student-athletes at Pepperdine, as well as to cover current costs for the refueling program -- which are about $12,000.

Q: Do you find that a lack of nutritional options for student-athletes is a common issue that should be addressed by more universities?

A: This is a nationwide issue that frankly has been, or is in process of being, addressed by a large majority of institutions around the country.

Q: When does the drive start and end?

A: The campaign started Monday, October 12th, and closes at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, October 18th.

Q: How can people make donations towards the initiative?

A: The way to donate is to go to our crowdfunding page at https://impact.pepperdine.edu/refuel.

Men's Volleyball: Jimmy Gehrels

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Meet men's volleyball student-athlete Jimmy Gehrels, who serves on the national SAAC committee, in this Athlete Spotlight video.

 

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