Waves Open 2014 Season on Friday vs. UC Irvine

Jan. 8, 2014

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MALIBU, Calif. - With four exhibition dress rehearsals under its belt, the Pepperdine men’s volleyball team officially gets the season underway this Friday, Jan. 10 when the Waves host two-time defending NCAA champions UC Irvine at 7 p.m. Opening weekend continues on Saturday, Jan. 11 with a 7 p.m. contest versus UC San Diego.

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#PURPOSE – Pepperdine Athletics officially launched its “Competing with Purpose” campaign during Waves Weekend. The campaign highlights the commitment to our core values that student-athletes, coaches and staff dedicate themselves to daily. Competing with Purpose provides the foundation on which champions are built.

SOCIAL CIRCLE - In addition to team information on PepperdineSports.com, fans can also keep up with the latest surrounding the men’s volleyball team by following the squad on Twitter (@PepperdineMVB) or liking Pepperdine men’s volleyball on Facebook. Pepperdine Athletics is also on Instagram (PepperdineWaves).

SEASON OUTLOOK - Another highly anticipated season of Pepperdine men’s volleyball is about to begin, with the Waves opening the 2014 campaign on Friday against UC Irvine. Expectations are high as five starters, plus libero, all return from 2013.

Wisdom and experience should help Pepperdine, picked to finish sixth in the MPSF Preseason Coaches Poll, with mostly juniors and seniors expected to begin the season in the starting rotation.

Returning starters from last season include seniors Kyle Gerrans (Los Gatos, Calif./Valley Christian) and Ryan Plueger (Los Angeles, Calif./Harvard-Westlake), redshirt juniors Parker Kalmbach (Coto de Caza, Calif./Tesoro HS) and Leonardo Granato (Reseda, Calif./Grover Cleveland HS/Pierce College) and juniors Matt West (Seattle, Wash./Shorewood HS) and Josh Taylor (Honolulu, Hawaii/Punahou School). Junior Nikola Antonijevic (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson HS) is also back with a fair amount of starting experience from 2012 and 2013.

When asked what he felt the team’s strengths were this year, veteran coach Marv Dunphy chose to remain coy, opting to let the Waves’ impending match play speak for itself.

“Our strengths are ‘to be determined,’ said Dunphy, now in his 31st season at the helm.

“We know what the set standards are to be successful. Standards in serving, blocking, passing and so on. Every day we evaluate ourselves based on that standard. We believe it’s a championship standard. We’re not meeting a lot of those standards right now, nor should we be at this point.

“As always, we want to play good volleyball and focus on the process,” continued Dunphy, assisted this season by David Hunt and Jonathan Winder. “Every team forms its unique identity. Everyone’s role develops and evolves throughout the course of the year.”

Dunphy did go on to say that if he had to choose a strength for his 2014 squad, it would be depth. Pepperdine’s roster currently includes two setters, five outside hitters, six middle blockers, two opposites and three liberos. Several members of the team are capable of playing outside of their primary position.

Here’s a closer look at the team, broken down by position.

Matt West returns as the most decorated player in the Waves’ lineup. He was awarded AVCA All-American first team status after leading the NCAA with 11.25 assists per set in 2013.

“He had a good summer (playing with USA Volleyball) and good year last year,” said Dunphy of his offensive maestro. “What I like about Matt is he wants to be good and he’s willing to do what he needs to do to be good. By the nature of his position he will be in a leadership role. He’s carried a pretty big load for us since day one and he does it well.”

In addition to his All-American accolades, West was an All-MPSF first team pick in 2013. He’s already gained attention as the season looms, being placed on the Lloy Ball Award (best collegiate setter award) watch list and earning preseason All-American distinction by Off the Block/Springbak, Inc.

Notably, West sat out the exhibition season recovering from a back injury. Earning valuable match experience during that time was freshman setter Soren Dion-Kindem (Agoura, Calif./Agoura HS).

“Soren taking the snaps in the exhibitions has been huge,” continued Dunphy. “He’s been an asset to the team, and we know we are in capable hands with him out there.”

Dion-Kindem averaged 10.40 assists per set in the four exhibition matches against Canadian squads while collecting 2.07 digs per set on the defensive end.

Dunphy has five outside hitters at his disposal this year, three of whom earned starting bids in 2013. Josh Taylor resumes his post on the outside, where he has started in all but two matches since stepping foot on campus in 2012.

Taylor is Pepperdine’s top-returning scorer from last year, and if exhibition play is any indication, should be the go-to hitter in 2014. He put down 3.08 kills per set as a sophomore. In exhibition action, the 6-foot-7 junior averaged 4.75 kills to the tune of a .430 hitting percentage.

“Josh had a good year and a good summer with Team USA,” Dunphy said. “He’s going to get a lot of swings and will carry a big load for us. He already has and this year should be no different. He came to us as a true opposite, never having passed a ball, and now he’s become a true outside hitter and has to play all aspects of the game.”

Taylor was an All-MPSF honorable mention in 2013 and made MPSF All-Freshman status in 2012.

Kyle Gerrans is expected to return to his role as a starting outside hitter. Gerrans began 2013 as the Waves’ starter, but saw his year cut short after dislocating his ankle midseason. Now healthy, the senior will be looking to make the most of his final season.

“Kyle is a determined young man and balances school, volleyball and family remarkably well,” praised Dunphy. “One of the things I like about him is that he’s always about the team and competing with his teammates and for his teammates. He’s always focused on what is upcoming in a good way.”

Gerrans, a solid passer on serve receive, averaged an even 2.00 kills and 1.00 digs as a junior.

Scott Rhein (Pleasant View, Tenn./Aaron Academy) was elevated to starter last year in Gerrans’ absence, and is capable of delivering. He had a breakout performance against UC San Diego when the 6-foot-4 outside hitter tagged down 13 kills on 16 errorless swings to help lead Pepperdine to the win. His final hitting percentage of .812 went down as the program’s fifth-best single-match clip, and the best amongst outside hitters.

“He’s been playing real well in practice and has improved his hitting and passing,” commented Dunphy. “I’m sure we will be calling on him several times as the season progresses.”

Two freshmen join the ranks of the outside hitters, including Max States (Honolulu, Hawaii/Solimar Academy) and James Gehrels (Tucson, Ariz./Salpointe Catholic HS).

“Max sees the game well and plays really, really hard,” continued Dunphy, “His ability to make good volleyball plays is contagious. James is also another important asset to this team and is improving every day.”

Parker Kalmbach, the Waves’ resident utility player, is expected to start on the right side, replacing All-American Maurice Torres. Kalmbach came to Malibu as an outside hitter before starting every match of 2013 as a middle blocker. The transition was a smooth one and Kalmbach picked up All-MPSF honorable mention acclaim. He ranked fifth in the MPSF with a blocks average of 1.23.

“At opposite, we have to make up for a lot of aces, blocks and kills,” said Dunphy, referring to Torres’ impressive impact during his four years at Pepperdine. Torres led the Waves in kills and aces in each of his four years in Malibu and ranks sixth all-time in program history with 1,634 career kills.

“We start replacing those number by committee, starting with Parker Kalmbach. Parker isn’t just an outside hitter, middle blocker or opposite. He is a volleyball player in the complete sense of the term. That helps us. He sees the game well and plays well.”

Also playing on the right side, although capable of playing in the middle as well, is Evan Dean (Corona del Mar, Calif./Corona del Mar HS).

“Evan is an energizer bunny, always ready to go,” said Dunphy. “He’s always ready and eager to do anything the team needs.”

Six middle blockers will be vying for the starting roll this season, including J.J. Mosolf (Saugus, Calif./Hart HS/Hawaii), Nikola Antonijevic, Leonard Granato, Matt Tarantino (Van Nuys, Calif./Bishop Alemany HS), Kyle Suppes (Union City, Calif./Bellarmine College Prep) and Mitchell Penning (Peoria, Ill./Westminster Christian Academy).

Mosolf, a reserve opposite in 2013, started every exhibition match as a middle blocker. Antonijevic and Granato shared starting duties last season, while Tarantino ended his freshman campaign in 2012 as the Waves’ starter. He was forced to redshirt last year while rehabilitating an injury.

Mosolf averaged 1.21 kills and 1.00 blocks during the exhibition season, while Antonijevic led the team against Alberta and British Columbia with 12 blocks in just eight sets of work.

“J.J. is a versatile volleyball player,” said Dunphy. “He can hit quick and he could still play opposite and maybe even outside.

“Nik is steady and we are looking for him to make a jump in his play,” Dunphy went on. “I don’t think he was satisfied with his play overall at Pepperdine these past two years and he is hungry to be a better hitter, blocker and server.”

Granato was a key reserve for the Waves last year, and started the final five matches of the season.

“Leo’s worked hard in the weight room and hopefully that works pays off for him and the team,” said Dunphy of the Waves’ tallest player at 6-foot-9.

Tarantino is back and healthy. As a freshman, he was an MPSF All-Freshman team selection and averaged 1.51 kills per set.

Pepperdine’s depth in the middle continues with Suppes and Penning. Suppes, a sophomore, saw limited time as a rookie, but according to Dunphy is one of the most improved players in the program right now.

Dunphy also sees a lot of promise in Penning, a 2012-13 AVCA Boys’ High School Senior All-American: “He swings with a heavy arm. Good arms are hard to teach and he certainly has one.”

A strong crop of liberos will be pressed with keeping the Waves’ serve receive and defense en point in 2014. Ryan Plueger averaged 1.49 digs as a junior, second behind Torres. Pepperdine also added Brennan Anderson (Newport Beach, Calif./Corona del Mar HS/Ohio State) to its roster. Anderson was a Volleyball Magazine All-American third team pick last year for the Buckeyes. He set Ohio States’ single-season record with a digs average of 3.12.

Freshman Chad McCallister (Huntington Beach, Calif./Marina HS) provides additional depth at the position.

“Ryan had a great fall, for sure he’s better now than what he was last year at this time,” said Dunphy of his senior. “He will be one of the leaders of this team. There is not a better human being than Ryan Plueger.”

Dunphy continued with his transfer: “Brennan is a volleyball rat, just constantly surrounds himself with the game. Because of that, he consistently makes the right play. He’s also capable of setting which is valuable.”

“Chad has made some big changes in how he passes and plays defense, and he gives us invaluable depth at that position,” concluded Dunphy.

LOOKING BACK - Pepperdine went 2-2 in exhibitions this year, splitting with both British Columbia and Alberta ... Several players beyond the seven-man rotation saw play time in an attempt to give everyone match experience before playing for keeps this weekend.

LOOKING FURTHER BACK - Pepperdine dropped in three sets to UCLA before ending the regular season with a 3-1 win over UC Santa Barbara on the road ... (Now graduated) Maurice Torres put down 10 kills vs. the Bruins before scattering 17 against the Gauchos ... Josh Taylor followed with 16 kills vs. UCSB ... The Waves’ season ended in the MPSF Quarterfinals with a 3-0 loss to the Bruins on the road.

NOTING THE WAVES - Friday’s MPSF opener vs. UC Irvine will be the 1,048th match in Pepperdine history ... The Waves are 643-337 all time ... In conference play the Waves are 447-259 and 242-142 in MPSF action ... Marv Dunphy boasts a career record of 480-240 ... The Waves are 342-113 when playing inside Firestone Fieldhouse.

SERIES NOTES - Pepperdine is 34-8 all-time in season-opening matches, including a 27-1 mark at home ... The Waves are 49-19 all-time against UC Irvine ... Although the Waves won the last meeting vs. the Anteaters (3-1 at home), UCI has won 11 of the last 12 meetings before that ... Pepperdine leads the series against UC San Diego 42-3 ... The Waves have won four in a row vs. the Tritons ... UCSD swept the season series vs. Pepperdine in 2010 and got its third win in 2011.

OPPONENT NOTES - UC Irvine is 3-1 with wins over Ball State and Lewis ... The Anteaters lone setback was a 3-2 loss to Loyola Chicago ... UC San Diego is 0-1 after being swept by UC Santa Barbara at the 50th Annual UCSB Asics Invitational.

EXHIBITION SEASON NOTABLES - Josh Taylor led the Waves in kills in all three of his exhibitions appearances, including 23 put aways in Pepperdine’s 3-1 win vs. British Columbia ... The outside hitter finished both matches against the Thunderbirds hitting over .500 ... Kyle Gerrans picked up a double-double with 12 kills and 12 digs against UBC (a would be career first) ... In the Waves’ first match against Alberta, Gerrans posted 11 kills, nine digs and six blocks ... The latter two stats are unofficial new career bests ... Freshman Soren Dion-Kindem started in all four contests and averaged 10.40 assists per set ... Nikola Antonijevic averaged a team-best 1.50 blocks per set including four roofs in one set of work on Sunday against the Golden Bears.

PRESEASON MPSF POLL - With 90 points, the Waves were picked to finished sixth in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in a preseason vote of the league’s 13 coaches. BYU and Long Beach State tied for first with 126 points and three first-place votes each.

NOTABLY MISSING - The Waves lost one starter from last season in Maurice Torres ... Torres led Pepperdine in kills and aces in each of his four seasons in Malibu ... He is currently playing professionally in France for Montpellier A.V.U.C. on loan from Andreoli Latina in Italy ... Torres is a “medical joker” for Montpelier, or a player added to the roster to replace an injured player.

VOLLEYBALL HISTORY - Pepperdine has won five NCAA men’s volleyball championships, second only to UCLA. The Waves have won the MPSF Tournament three times and have won or shared nine regular-season conference titles. Pepperdine has won either an MPSF regular-season or tournament title (or both) in six of the last 14 seasons. The Waves have finished in the top six in the final AVCA poll in 15 of the last 17 seasons. Pepperdine student-athletes have won national player of the year honors nine times and All-American accolades 79 times. A Pepperdine alum has competed for the U.S. at the Olympics every time since 1984 (Sean Rooney won gold in 2008).

Marv Dunphy - Now in his 31st season as head coach of the Waves, Marv Dunphy has time and again proven himself to be one of the top teachers in the sport. He has directed Pepperdine to four NCAA championships, each in a different decade (1978, 1985, 1992, 2005). He was the 2005 National Coach of the Year and is a three-time MPSF Coach of the Year. He entered the 2013 season with a career record of 546-241* (.694). Dunphy has long been involved with USA Volleyball, having been part of the coaching staff at six Olympics, including head coach of the 1988 team and consultant coach for the 2008 squad, both of which won gold. He has been inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame (1994), AVCA Hall of Fame (2009) and the Pepperdine Athletics Hall of Fame (2010).

ABOUT PEPPERDINE - Pepperdine boasts a one-of-a-kind athletic department with unprecedented success for a school of its size. The Waves have won NCAA Division I championships in five different men’s sports – one of just 16 schools to have accomplished this feat – and nine overall. Of this elite group, Pepperdine has the smallest undergraduate enrollment and is the only school not affiliated with a BCS-level conference. The Waves have earned the Division I-AAA All-Sports Trophy, an award based on postseason success that’s given to the top non-football school, three times (most recently in 2011-12). Located in scenic Malibu, Calif., the university overlooks the Pacific Ocean and its campus and athletic facilities are regularly voted among the nation’s most beautiful. Pepperdine, which is affiliated with the Church of Christ, ranks #57 overall on U.S. News and World Report’s list of America’s best colleges.



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