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UH’s Parapunov, UCSB’s McLaughlin get top men’s national honors

The Big West dominated the national NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball postseason honors.

Rado Parapunov of Hawai’i, who led the Rainbow Warriors to the national championship, is the player of the year.

Rick McLaughlin of UC Santa Barbara is our national coach of the year, and Long Beach State’s Clarke Godbold is the national freshman of the year.

It was an unusual year in the sport, to say the least. The men’s season was cut short in 2020 by the pandemic and there was little inter-conference play.

Accordingly, our All-American voting panel of coaches and media — Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe, Lewis coach Dan Friend, Princeton coach Sam Shweisky, Off the Block blog’s Vinnie Lopes, and contributor and Viral Volley Podcast host Rob Espero — had significantly more variance than normal, voting for 50 different players in 28 spots.

Princeton, for one, did not get to compete this season because the Ivy League shut down all sports, although his team is a member of the EIVA.

“With so many talented players to choose from, ranking is always a very arduous prospect, but this year especially with such little inter-conference play it was extremely difficult,” Schweisky admitted.

“As my esteemed colleague Jay Hosack the head coach from George Mason likes to say, without any cross-pollination this year it was almost impossible to compare teams and players. But as always no matter how bad the set is, you take the best swing you can with what you get.”

The panel was largely in sync for the first team, with all players ranked within two spots of each other. Beyond that, the variances were huge, a tribute to the increasing depth of talent nationally in men’s volleyball.

Each panelist was directed to include one setter and libero in each team. First Team
Rado Parapunov, Hawai’i, senior, opposite
Ryan Coenen, Lewis, senior, outside
Gabi Garcia Fernandez, BYU, senior, opposite
Patrick Gasman, Hawai’i, senior, middle
Casey McGarry, UC Santa Barbara, senior, setter
Gage Worsley, Hawai’i, junior, libero
Tyler Mitchem, Lewis, senior, middle
Second Team
Wil Stanley, BYU, graduate, setter
Randy DeWeese, UC Santa Barbara, senior, opposite
Colton Cowell, Hawai’i, senior, outside
Cal Fisher, Penn State, junior, outside
Cole Bogner, Penn State, junior, setter
Davide Gardini, BYU, junior, outside
Keenan Sanders, UC Santa Barbara, senior, middle
Third Team
Kevin Kauling, Lewis, sophomore, setter
Austin Wilmot, Pepperdine, senior, middle
Brett Wildman, Penn State, junior, outside
Spencer Wickens, Pepperdine, senior, outside
Alvaro Gimeno, NJIT, senior, outside
Jakob Thelle, Hawai’i, sophomore, setter
Simon Andersen, Long Beach State, junior, middle
Honorable Mention
Joel Schneidmiller, UC Irvine, senior, outside
Tobi Azeez, Mount Olive, junior, outside
Roy McFarland, UC Santa Barbara, senior, outside
Mason Briggs, Long Beach State, freshman, libero
Sotiris Siapanis, Ohio State, freshman, outside
Zach Eschenberg, BYU, graduate, outside
Camden Gianni, GCU, redshirt freshman, outside
Also receiving votes: Lucas Galifos (McKendree), Matteo Miselli (Belmont Abbey), Cole Schlothauer (Loyola), Jackson Gilbert (North Greenville), Garret Zolg (Loyola), Merrick McHenry (UCLA), Sam Kobrine (UCLA), Hugo Fischer (GCU), Michal Podgrazk (Limestone), Raymond Barsemian (Concordia Irvine), Bryce Dvorak (Pepperdine), Will Bantle (Penn State), Ryan Wilcox (UC Santa Barbara), Spencer Olivier (Long Beach State), Clarke Godbold (Long Beach State), Felipe de Brito Ferreira (BYU), Shane Holdaway (Long Beach State), Pelegrin Vargas (Purdue Fort Wayne), Kyle Bugee (Lewis), Kyle McCauley (UC San Diego), Noah Melendez (King), JP Payne (Queens).

Hawai’i swept BYU for its first national title (UH won in 2002, but that championship was stripped by the NCAA) as Parapunov led in points (342.5), kills (285), and aces (23). The 6-foot-9 left-hander from Bulgaria received three of the five first-place votes. Ryan Coenen of Lewis got the other two.

“I was really impressed with Rado,” Lewis coach Friend said. “He was a force this year in every facet of the game.  It wasn’t just his play but his mental focus and drive on winning a national championship for his team, college, and the people of Hawai’i.”

NCAA mens All-Americans 5/25/2021-Rick McLaughlin-UCSB men's volleyball
UCSB’s Rick McLaughlin, the 2021 Coach of the Year/Big West photo

UCSB’s Rick McLaughlin led the Gauchos, who finished 16-5, to the national semifinals, where they lost to Hawai’i. Earlier they won the Big West tournament. He was also named the AVCA national coach of the year.

“Rick McLaughlin has been one of the most persistent and knowledgeable workhorses in the men’s game for many years,” voter Espero said of the 13th-year coach.

“He has had the knack for spotting talent where others don’t, maximizing the strengths of his personnel, milking every ounce of effort and effectiveness out of his athletes and bringing them together in a way that culminated in UCSB being a top-four program the entirety of the 2021 season.”

Hawai’i’s Charlie Wade, Friend, and McKendree’s Nickie Sanlin also got coach-of-the-year votes.

NCAA men's All-Americans 5/25/2021
Long Beach’s Clarke Godbold is’s Freshman of the Year/Long Beach athletics photo

Godbold, a 6-5 outside hitter from San Pedro, California, averaged 2.51 kills/sets, hit .232 and added seven aces, 70 digs, and 35 blocks. His serve-receive percentage was .909.

Orange County restrictions prevented Long Beach from its normal preseason training. It was one of the last counties to open, making it especially difficult for freshmen, Knipe noted.

“With no fall or preseason, he started every match. Clarke had to play opposite and outside hitter, sometimes both within the same match,” Knipe said. “He has incredible volleyball IQ and versatility and work ethic.”

Grand Canyon’s Camden Gianni, Pepperdine’s Bryce Dvorak and Ohio State’s Sotiris Siapanis also received votes.