NCAA volleyball: Notre Dame hires Salima, Stanford men get to 2-0, Central State joins the party

Salima is back on the bench.

Notre Dame hired Salima Rockwell as its next head coach. With Iowa filling its opening last week with Tulane coach Jim Barnes, the only Power 5 opening is at Penn State. That leaves about a dozen head-coaching openings in Division I.

The NCAA men’s volleyball season, despite numerous COVID postponements and cancelations, has finally gotten underway. 

Stanford, a team that at this time a year ago wasn’t expected to even be in existence this season, is 2-0.

Central State lost, but the Mauraders became the first SIAC school to compete in men’s volleyball, Penn State swept BYU, and USC beat UC Santa Barbara.

Defending national-champion Hawai’i, which won its opener Wednesday, is back in action Friday when it plays the second of two matches with visiting Loyola. 

ND HIRES ROCKWELL — New fans to the sport might only know Salima Rockwell as the television analyst, and while she’s never been a head coach, she was an assistant at Penn State twice (2006-09 and 2015-17) and at Texas (2009-13). During those stints, Penn State won NCAA titles in 2007, 2008, and 2009, while Texas won it all in 2012. 

Rockwell was a three-time All-American setter for Penn State from 1991-94 and played on the USA national team from 1995-99. Earlier in her career Rockwell was also an assistant at Pitt and Oregon State.

She is at least the fourth African American woman to become a Division I head coach this season, including Tonya Johnson at LSU, Rashinda Reed at Alabama, and Linda Hampton-Keith at Temple. Kristee Porter left as the head coach at McNeese State to take over at North Texas. Johnson was at Texas, and when she left to become the head coach at Georgia Tech, Rockwell left Penn State for Austin. And when Rockwell went back to Penn State, Johnson returned to Texas.

Notre Dame finished 13-15 in 2021, 10-8 in the ACC. Coach Mike Johnson was fired last month after four seasons in which his teams went 63-41.

STANFORD STARTS STRONG — The Cardinal of the MPSF opened the season with back-to-back sweeps of the MIVA’s Lindenwood, winning 25-16, 25-14, 25-18 on Wednesday and 28-26, 25-16, 25-22 on Thursday.

Stanford announced in July 2020 that it was going to cut 11 sports, including men’s volleyball, but reinstated the sport last May. Along the way the team lost some key players, who transferred to ensure they would have options.

Against Lindenwood on Wednesday, Stanford hit .472 with 33 kills in 53 swings with eight errors. Will Rottman led with 12 kills and had one error in 17 attacks to go with three aces and a dig. In Thursday’s victory, Rottman had 12 more kills and Luke Turner had 12, too. Nathaniel Gates had four kills in six errorless attacks and eight blocks, one solo.

HAWAI’I CELEBRATES — The Rainbow Warriors not only got off to a big start, the program raised its 2021 national-championship banner on Wednesday when Hawai’i swept visiting Loyola of the MIVA 25-14, 25-23, 25-18. 

Hawai’i hit .381 and got 11 kills from Chaz Galloway, who had one error in 21 attacks, two blocks, and four digs. Guilherme Voss had 10 kills with one error in 13 attacks and three blocks, and Dimitrious Mouchlias had nine kills, seven digs, and three blocks, one solo. 

Cole Schlothauer had 10 kills for Loyola, which hit .169.

The teams play again Friday night.

PENN STATE, USC WIN — Penn State of the EIVA, the No. 5 team in the AVCA preseason poll, beat visiting No. 6 BYU of the MPSF 25-14, 25-18, 25-19 as the teams opened their respective seasons. Penn State, which hit .365, got 10 kills from Toby Ezeonu, who also had six blocks, one solo. Brett Wildman had nine kills, three aces, three blocks, and four digs, and Cal Fisher had eight kills, two aces, four digs, and five blocks, two solo. BYU’s Davide Gardini had nine kills, a block, and four digs …

USC of the MPSF won 19-25, 25-22, 17-25, 25-23, 15-8 at No. 11 UC Santa Barbara of the Big West. USC hit .328 and got 18 kills from Sam Kobrine and 17 from Simon Gallas, Kobrine had two assists, four aces, and seven digs, while Gallas had two aces, three blocks, and four digs. Liam Schroeder had 10 kills in 12 errorless swings, an assist, an ace, two digs, and four blocks, one solo. UCSB’s Haotian Xu had 21 kills, hit .349, and had two aces, three blocks, and five digs. Ryan Wilcox had 18 kills, hit .342, and had an ace, two blocks, and five digs. The Gauchos hit .333. The teams play again Friday.

HISTORY FOR CSU — Indiana Tech won twice Thursday, first sweeping Central State to open its season and then sweeping at nearby Wittenburg. 

But the big news was the Central State played its first men’s volleyball match. Central State is part of the SIAC, a conference consisting of historically black colleges that got men’s volleyball started largely through a grant from the First Point Foundation. 

Indiana Tech won the match 25-18, 23-25, 21-25, 25-17, 15-10.

“We battled really hard. For the first match with all first year players, I thought we did an excellent job of competing for every point against a team in Indiana Tech who is coming off a NAIA national tournament appearance,” Central State coach Ray Lewis said. 

“We had some impressive contributions from quite a few players today. Jaden Rookhuyzen, who was playing a position he had just been moved to a few days ago, really shined today.”

Rookhuyzen had 16 kills to lead the Mauraders, and had an assist, an ace, two blocks, and a dig. Yaron Afek had 14 kills, an assist, two aces, and fvie digs.

Indiana Tech’s Daynte Stewart had 21 kills with four errors in 32 attacks to hit .532. He had an assist, nine digs, and five blocks, three solo.

Ohio State of MIVA was scheduled to play Charleston of the EIVA, but that match was canceled. Now Central State will go to Ohio State for matches Friday and Saturday.

FIELDS TO USC — There have been plenty of transfers since the season ended, with plenty more going to happen.

But the most significant might have been this week when Skylar Fields left Texas for USC. Fields, a VolleyballMag.com fourth-team All-American outside hitter, played three seasons at Texas. She was second only to VBM national player of the year Logan Eggleston in kills for the Longhorns at 3.57 per set while hitting .331.

Eggleston’s younger sister, Shaye, who was at Alabama, has transferred to Cincinnati.

Among the other recent significant transfers, libero Jenna Hampton has left Penn State for South Carolina, middle Lauren Dooley has gone from Florida to Kansas, setter Matti McKissock has gone from Georgia Tech to UCLA, setter Hannah Pukis stayed in the PAC-12 by going from Washington State to Oregon, and outside Rhett Robinson has gone from North Teas to Florida.

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