Which players would you pay to see in National Collegiate Men’s Volleyball Championship (schedule below)?
We asked some of the participants who will be at George Mason starting Sunday when the tournament opens with Ohio State facing King. The respondents could not pick their own players/teammates.
Several coaches — perhaps not wanting to give their potential opponents any bulletin board material — picked more than three. Here were some of the responses:
King coach Ryan Booher: “Literally about everybody from the Hawai’i team. And UCLA … Merrick McHenry. Penn State, Brett Wildman and Cal Fisher … I can’t wait to see Grand Canyon live. I have seen them on video, and they’re such fast, athletic guys.
“(Hawai’i setter) Jakob Thelle is just amazing. He played here when he was a freshman, and they came to play us. He was just a serving sub at that point in his freshman year, and just to see him now, his evolution.”
UCLA coach John Speraw: “I’d watch Thelle and (Dimi) Mouchlias and Spyros (Chakas) from Hawai’i … I’d watch the Penn State crew. I think Toby (Ezeonu) is an impact player in the middle. He’s really fun to watch. I think (Cole) Bogner, their setter, has really done a great job this year … On Ohio State, you’ve got to watch (outside hitter Jacob) Pasteur … On Grand Canyon, you’ve got to watch (OH Camden) Gianni and (OH Christian) Janke. I think their ability to serve the ball — and (OH Jackson) Hickman — that team is not big but super athletic with big arms. On Long Beach, (OH) Sotiris Siapanis has had a great year. If (opposite Clarke) Godbold is playing well, they’re in a good spot.”
Hawai’i coach Charlie Wade: “I would say the middles Ezeonu from Penn State and, certainly, McHenry from UCLA. Those are like NBA athletes. Really dynamic. And the other guy I’d put not too far behind them … is Pasteur from Ohio State. That’s a legit national- team-level guy that’s got a really bright future in our sport.”
Long Beach State middle Simon Torwie: “I’m a really big fan of the Penn State middle, Toby. I just love watching him … I think I’ll stick with middles: Merrick McHenry. I want to see how he does. He’s a ridiculous physical player, and it’s really cool to see what he does. … The two Greek guys (at Hawai’i), Dimi and Spyros, as fellow Europeans, I have a special place in my heart for them.”
Long Beach setter Aidan Knipe: “From my standpoint, Jakob is, obviously, going to be that guy. He’s Big West Player of the Year for a reason. He’s a very, very talented volleyball player and knows how to run an offense.
“And I think Bogner from Penn State, same kind of thing.
“And two of the underrated guys that I’m really looking forward to watching how they play are Cole Hogland from Hawai’i and Rico Wardlow from Grand Canyon. Those guys don’t get enough love as it is, and they are two extremely talented, high-flying middle blockers.”
Loyola Chicago coach John Hawks (former UCLA assistant): “Merrick McHenry and Ethan Champlin are two from UCLA. Dimitrios Mouchlias and Spyros Chakas from Hawai’i. I’d say Long Beach State’s Siapanis. I think he’s just a phenomenal volleyball player. If I had to go a little deeper, you’d have Toby Ezeonu. Hopefully, he’s back playing again. Just a big-time athlete.”
Hawai’i opposite Dimitrios Mouchlias: “I would come to watch Merrick McHenry, Sotiris Siapanis and (Penn State OH) Michal Kowal.”
UCLA middle Merrick McHenry: “I would say Dimi Mouchlias from Hawai’i … I think he’s the definition of a baller. In the big moments, when everyone in the gym knows it’s going to him, he still puts it away. Even when we played them a couple months ago, there were shots that I was closing the block, and he was just cutting inside me, and I was just like, ‘Wow. There was no way I’d ever block that ball.’
“I love watching (Long Beach libero) Mason Briggs. If you watch the moves he makes, the communication — I have played with him, so I’m a little bit biased — but his level of communication and the way he controls the serve receive.
“I think I’m going to put (Penn State’s) Cal Fisher on there. He’s having a great year, and he’s been playing better as the year has gone on and come back from an injury. I’m just loving the way he’s performing and jumping.”
Grand Canyon coach Matt Werle: “Merrick McHenry. He is a physical phenom with his verticality and attack angles. Very impressed to see the height of his contact point and trajectory over the block and into the middle of the court.
“Cole Bogner. Cole, not only a phenomenal setter, but a fiery leader. I always enjoy watching him compete.
“Jacob Pasteur. He has a great arm and explosive jumping ability, but the other parts of his game – defense and serve receive – are just as strong.”
Penn State coach Mark Pavlik: The longtime Nittany Lions coach recited a litany of players to watch, a few who have not yet been mentioned: Hawai’i middle Guilherme Voss, Hawai’i libero Brett Sheward, UCLA freshman setter Andrew Rowan and his teammates Ido David and Ethan Champlin. Champlin is, Pav said, “what makes that Bruin machine really hum”; and Ohio State opposite Shane Wetzel.
Of course, in his own inimitable style, Pavlik threw a knuckle-balling jump float at the assignment.
“Then you look at Gianni and Janke for GGU … with a former Pennsylvania product coaching them, former Juniata All-American Matt Werle. You can tell him he would be the guy that I’m paying money to watch in this tournament.”
Juniata, of course, is near and dear to Pavlik. His wife, Heather, is the women’s coach at Juniata. This past fall, Heather Pavlik led the Eagles to the Division III national title, and, for now, she has earned household bragging rights.