Men's Volleyball Season Outlook

Men's Volleyball Season Outlook

Click on the above video player for an interview with the Waves' Kasey Crider.

Jan. 8, 2009

MALIBU, Calif. - The Pepperdine men's volleyball team opens the 2010 season on Saturday (Jan. 9) at NAIA power California Baptist at 4 p.m. The Waves are coming off a first-place finish at the McDonald's International Tournament last weekend (they won three exhibitions against Canadian schools). Pepperdine is ranked #4 in the AVCA preseason poll.

Following is the team's season outlook:

Another year, another National Player of the Year that the Pepperdine men's volleyball program must replace, which makes the 2010 campaign a difficult one to predict for the Waves.

The Waves have most of their starters back from last year, when they went 22-5, made the final of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament and ended up ranked #3 by the AVCA.

As has been the case throughout Marv Dunphy's coaching career, player development has kept the Waves among the nation's best teams. After 2007 Player of the Year Jonathan Winder graduated in 2008, Kasey Crider stepped into the setting role and was named an All-American second teamer in 2009. Now, Pepperdine will have to replace 2009 Player of the Year Paul Carroll. (Pepperdine has had seven National Players of the Year in the last 12 seasons.)

"Every team needs to form its own identity," said Dunphy, who has won four NCAA titles in his 26 previous seasons and enters the 2010 season with 491 career wins. "We're certainly going to miss a lot of good volleyball from the likes of Matt McKee and Paul Carroll, and the numbers they put up will have to be replaced. We haven't done that yet. The standards that we're familiar with, we didn't meet them in the fall. But we work on them every day."

He has a veteran squad back that understands Pepperdine's expectations of success, which includes 13 consecutive years with a top-six ranking at season's end. Of the 11 returning letterwinners, Pepperdine brings back the starting setter and libero, both middle blockers and one of the outside hitters. Plus, senior outside hitter J.D. Schleppenbach, one of the postseason standouts of the run to the 2008 national championship match, should make his return to the court after redshirting last season and rehabbing from a couple of injuries.

"Everyone on the team is going to have to carry a bigger load than they did before," said Dunphy, who is assisted by J.J. Riley and David Hunt. "They're working hard and trying to do that. Time will tell."

Schleppenbach (Ventura, Calif./Ventura HS) is a three-year starter, but he missed the 2009 season after having shoulder surgery. He's also coming back from a knee injury. The last time he was active, he made the all-tournament teams at both the MPSF and NCAA Championships in 2008, including an average of 4.14 kills in the two NCAA Tournament matches.

"J.D. isn't quite the same player yet from when we last saw him out there, which was at a pretty high level more than a year ago," Dunphy said. "If we can get him back fully healthy, he'll make a big difference."

Crider (Granite Bay, Calif./Granite Bay HS), a junior setter, moved into the starting position last year and earned his All-American award from Volleyball Magazine after averaging 13.90 assists, second-best in the nation. He also averaged 2.12 digs and 0.67 blocks and helped Pepperdine to a team hitting percentage of .343.

"Kasey played a lot of last year not as strong as he wanted to be," Dunphy said. "He had some injuries and he had to manage those, but he's now stronger physically. I would look for him to play well and take on a little more of a leadership role."

Other setters on the roster are senior Kyle Luongo (Palmdale, Calif./Highland HS/Pierce CC) and junior Doug Astor (Santa Ana, Calif./Foothill HS/Orange Coast CC).

The Waves bring back one of the nation's top liberos in senior Sean Grubbs (Newport Beach, Calif./Newport Harbor HS/Irvine Valley CC). He averaged 2.04 digs per game over his first two seasons, which ranks third all-time at Pepperdine, and is known for his outstanding passing abilities. He made the All-MPSF honorable mention squad last season.

"He's good," Dunphy said. "All good teams have one thing or a couple of things they're good at, and hopefully we'll be a good passing team. A big part of that is Sean's ability to pass. He has very good volleyball instincts."

Additional liberos that are new to the team are junior Brandt Ng (Orinda, Calif./Bentley HS/Saint Mary's) and sophomore Michael Kahl (Laguna Beach, Calif./Laguna Beach HS).

Junior Cory Riecks (Auburn, Calif./Placer HS) joins Schleppenbach as an outside hitter with multiple years of experience in the starting lineup. He was second on the team as a freshman with 3.22 kills and third as a sophomore with 2.56 kills.

"Cory has been a little inconsistent, but he's had some really good streaks at times," Dunphy said. "If we get some more consistent play out of him, he'll be fine. He's matured as a volleyball player and I expect he'll carry a big load this season."

One of the most improved players on Pepperdine's team is senior outside hitter Brent Schirripa (Los Angeles, Calif./Crespi Carmelite HS). He averaged 0.87 kills and 1.09 digs and appeared in all 27 matches last year.

"Brent really played well in several significant matches last year," Dunphy said. "He's in the mix for a starting position. I'm proud of what he's done to make himself into a good volleyball player. He's as close to reaching his potential as any guy in the program."

Sophomore outside hitter Chase Ross (Carlsbad, Calif./Carlsbad HS) is another player that might be ready to take a step forward. He competed at the 2009 FIVB Junior World Beach Championships in England this summer. Redshirt freshman Beau Vandeweghe (Carlsbad, Calif./La Costa Canyon HS), sophomore Trevor Van Uden (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks HS) and freshman Joel Lopata (Deerfield, Ill./Deerfield HS) are also competing at outside hitter.

Pepperdine's returning starters at middle blocker are senior Rodnei Santos (Sao Paulo, Brazil/Colegio Campos Salles/BYU) and junior Tyler Jaynes (Granite Bay, Calif./Granite Bay HS).

Santos sat out his first season at Pepperdine after transferring from BYU, but immediately became a force during the 2009 season. He averaged 2.18 kills while hitting .437, and ranked second in the MPSF and fourth nationally in blocks (1.45). Different circumstances could also see Santos play some at opposite this season.

"Rodnei has done a very good job as a hitter," Dunphy said. "We need to pass the ball well enough to get him the ball. He's probably a better volleyball player than he was a year ago, and that's good."

Jaynes is a two-year starter who ranked fourth in the MPSF and sixth nationally in blocks (1.42) in 2009, and also averaged 1.60 kills while hitting .410.

"Tyler had a good summer, but unfortunately had an injury that kept him out of the fall," Dunphy said. "He's a little older, a little wiser, and I expect he'll play a bigger role as a hitter for us."

Making a push to break into the starting lineup at middle blocker is sophomore Matt Pollock (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg HS). He appeared in three games and three matches last season and has improved greatly heading into his second year.

"Matt is working hard," Dunphy said. "He's worked hard in the weight room. If he could win one of the middle spots, that would help our depth and give us some options or different lineups we could use."

Senior Patrick Powers (Fort Worth, Texas/Country Day HS) is in his fifth season with the program and also competes among the middle blockers.

Replacing a three-time All-American like Carroll and his national-leading 6.36 kills per game won't be possible with just one person. But, the Waves do have one of the nation's top recruits lined up to possibly start at opposite this year. Freshman Maurice Torres (Riverside, Calif./Orange Lutheran HS) was a Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 selection and has played in the USA youth national team system the past three years.

"Maurice is expected to do a lot from the start," Dunphy said. "It would be great if he serves a ton, hits a ton and blocks a ton. The best parts of his game are serving and hitting."

Senior outside hitter Sean Pedersen (Evergreen Park, Ill./Mount Carmel HS/Cal State Northridge) is expected to redshirt this season. He appeared in all 27 matches and 80 games, primarily as a serving specialist, last season (his first at Pepperdine after transferring from CSUN).

Pepperdine's 25-match regular-season schedule includes 11 home-and-home series with MPSF opponents. The conference is expected to be extremely competitive this season (the Waves were picked fifth in the preseason coaches poll). For non-conference matches, Pepperdine opens the season at California Baptist and will host Ball State and Grand Canyon later in the year.




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