By Mike Miazga for VolleyballMag.com
Parity in sports can be a good thing.
And if the results of the 2016 VolleyballMag.com men’s college top recruiting classes are any indication, the influx of incoming talent this season will help many teams.
Six teams earned at least one first-place vote in the polling, which comes from a panel of NCAA Division I-II coaches. Only 12 voting points separated the first- through fourth-place teams.
Stanford checks in at No. 1 in the rankings, completing a recruiting sweep for the Cardinal, who also earned the top spot in this year’s VolleyballMag.com women’s college recruiting rankings.
Coach Dan Friend’s Lewis Flyers check in at No. 2, further adding to the long-term high-quality program run out of the small south-suburban Chicago town of Romeoville.
A tale of polar opposites round out the four teams with UCLA (only three recruits) at No. 3 and defending NCAA champion Ohio State (with a massive incoming class of eight) taking up residence at No. 4.
UC Santa Barbara also did itself plenty of future favors with the massive class it assembled.
Here’s the complete rundown of this year’s top classes.
1. Stanford Cardinal
Incoming players: Eric Beatty (6-7, OH, Huntington Beach (Calif.), HBC/949 Athletics), Paul Bischoff (6-5, S, Glenbard (Ill.) West, Sports Performance), Stephen Moye (6-9, MB, El Segundo (Calif.), SCVC), Jacob Thoenen (6-6, MB, Christian (St. Charles, Mo.), St. Louis HP), Mason Tufuga (6-5, RS, Costa Mesa (Calif.), OCVC), Eli Wopat (6-5, RS, Dos Pueblos (Santa Barbara, Calif.), Santa Barbara VBC/SMBC)
The skinny: Stanford churns out another top-notch class, headlined by Bischoff, a suburban Chicago product from the tradition-rich Sports Performance club who was named the 2016 VolleyballMag.com Boys’ High School Player of the Year.
“Paul has the talent to become a premier setter in the MPSF and the work ethic to match,” Stanford coach John Kosty said. “Of the many prospects in this class, he probably is the best athlete in the position, but he is much more than that. He has command of the offense and has the ability to run the offense at a very quick pace. He can make bas passes look good and is an above-average defender. Best of all, Paul fits our Stanford profile. He is a tremendous person with great passion, drive and humility.”
Including Bischoff, this class features four players named to the VolleyballMag.com 2016 Boys’ Fab 50 list. Beatty comes from a successful prep pedigree at Huntington Beach High School where he played on two unbeaten teams.
“Eric Beatty, quite simply, is a winner,” Kosty said. “Every team he has been on has enjoyed tremendous success. At 6-7, he brings good size and physicality to the court. He is well-skilled as a passer and a net player, and is a strong attacker out of the front and back rows. He will bring intensity and fire to our team. We truly are fortunate to have this young man in our program.”
2. Lewis Flyers
Incoming players: Kyle Bugee (6-5, OH, Homestead (Cupertino, Calif.), Bay to Bay), Joe Crosby (6-10, MB, Mc Quaid Jesuit, Rochester, N.Y., Pace Bootlegger), Jake Dixon (6-6, OH, Bethel Park (Pa.), Pittsburgh), Grant Holve (6-3, libero, Carlsbad (Calif.), Coast), Zack Meyer (6-4, OH, Wheaton (Ill.)-Warrenville South, Sports Performance), Tyler Mitchem (6-10, MB, Bolingbrook (Ill.), Sports Performance), TJ Murray (6-9, MB, Barrington (Ill.), Sports Performance), Ryan Van Loo (6-3, S, Burroughs (Burbank, Calif.), SMBC)
The skinny: Coach Dan Friend’s recruiting class is large times two. Not only does the Flyers’ Class of 2016 feature eight players, but it also has five players above 6-5 and three above 6-9. Bugee, Dixon, Meyer and Mitchem are 2016 VolleyballMag.com Fab 50 selections.
“This is one of the best recruiting classes, top to bottom, that I’ve had since being at Lewis,” Friend said. “There are several Fab 50 and All-Americans within the group. I look for this group to make a lasting impact on the program.”
One other coach on the voting panel had this to say about the Flyers group: “Lewis has a big and very good recruiting class that will have an immediate impact.”
The Flyers also kept the Illinois talent pipeline open, snagging Sports Performance club standouts Meyer, Mitchem and Murray.
3. UCLA Bruins
Incoming players: Sam Kobrine (6-3, S-OH, Corona del Mar (Newport Beach, Calif.), 949 VBC), Daeanan Gyimah (6-8, MB-OH, Mowat Collegiate Institute (Toronto, Ontario), STVC Nemesis), Sam Jones (5-9, libero, Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), SCVC)
The skinny: The theme here for the Bruins is 3-for-3. UCLA has only three incoming recruits, but those three players have high enough potential for members of the voting panel to rate this class at such a high level at No. 3.
“Our recruiting class this year is small, yet it’s a really important one,” UCLA assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Brad Keller said. “We have our entire starting lineup returning from last year and we lost only two players. The three guys coming in complement this group extremely well. Daenan is an explosive quick-twitch player who touches over 12 feet and has a big ceiling. Sam Kobrine is a dynamic, explosive athlete that can possibly play three positions for us. Sam Jones is a fast-twitch libero that brings a ton of experience and a great touch on the ball.”
Kobrine and Jones both are 2016 VolleyballMag.com Fab 50 selections. Gyimah played for the Canadian boys’ youth national team and earned Canadian National All-Star honors.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
Incoming players: Tyler Alter (6-4, OH, Laguna Beach (Calif.), 949 VBC), Jason Bruggemann (6-5, MB, Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati, Ohio), Cincinnati Attack), Dejon Clark (6-5, OH-RS, Pickerington (Ohio) North, Vanguard), Reese Devilbiss (6-2, OH, Northeastern (Manchester, Pa.), Yorktowne), Jake Hanes (6-10, RS, Sandburg (Orland Park, Ill.), Ultimate), Paul Henken (6-3, S, University (St. Louis, Mo.), St. Louis HP), Maxime Hervoir (6-5, OH, France), Andrew Hillman (6-3, S, Parkland (Allentown, Pa., Yorktowne), Shawn Hughes (6-4, OH, University (St. Louis, Mo.), St. Louis HP)
The skinny: The defending NCAA champions reloaded in a big way here with eight newcomers and one transfer (Hervoir, from France, is a junior in class standing). This class features five VolleyballMag.com Fab 50 picks (Alter, Devilbiss, Hanes, Hillman and Hughes) and three AVCA high-school All-Americans (Devilbiss, Hanes and Hillman).
“We’re very excited about the amount of well-rounded volleyball players and proven winners we have coming in here this fall,” said Ohio State coach Pete Hanson, whose team won the 2016 NCAA title. “Every member of our 2016 class has taken their respective high school and club teams to new heights and we expect them to do the same at Ohio State. This is one of the best recruiting classes in program history.”
Henken and Hughes come from the same successful high school and club teams in St. Louis. Hanes was named the player of the year by the Daily Southtown in the Chicago south suburbs, while Hughes was the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s player of the year. Hervoir played for the French national team in 2014 and is a two-time French Cup winner who also was named best outside hitter in 2015.
5. UC Santa Barbara Gauchos
Incoming players: Davis Boehle (6-0, libero-S, Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.), MB Surf), Randy Deweese (6-6, S, Natomas Prep, Sacramento, Calif.), Spencer Fredrick (6-3, RS, Valley Christian (San Jose, Calif.), Dynamic), Brad Maricle (6-4, OH-RS, Palos Verdes (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.), SCVC), Roy McFarland (6-3, OH, Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), SCVC), Casey McGarry (6-0, S, Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.), SCVC), Keenan Sanders (6-6, MB-RS, Scripps Ranch (San Diego, Calif.), Coast), Jack Truman (6-10, MB, Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.), MB Surf), Grady Yould (6-0, libero-OH, Dana Hills (Dana Point, Calif.), 949).
The skinny: A well-deserved top-five ranking here for the Gauchos, who stayed entirely in the Golden State to secure this nine-player class that mixes players with strong high-school and club pedigrees.
“We brought in nine guys we like a lot,” Santa Barbara coach Rick McLaughlin said. “Four or five of them already have very high volleyball IQs, sound skills, have won a ton and will really help our training environment immediately. The other four or five have incredible potential and could become very successful players in the MPSF after a few years. We are very excited about all nine and can’t wait to get them in our gym.”
Santa Barbara features five players on the 2016 VolleyballMag.com Boys’ Fab 50 list (Boehle, Deweese, McFarland, McGarry, Sanders and Truman) and five that made the 2016 VolleyballMag.com Boys’ High School All-American teams (Boehle, McGarry, McFarland, Maricle and Truman).
6. Penn State Nittany Lions
Incoming players: Cameron Bartus (6-10, MB-OH, West Seneca (N.Y.) West, Eden), Kyle Mackiewicz (6-8, RS, J.P. Stevens (Edison, N.J.), Atlantic Valley), Declan Pierce (6-0, libero, Eden (N.Y.), Eden VBC), Nathan Smith (6-5, S, Los Altos (Calif.), Bay to Bay), Bobby Wilden (6-9, OH-MB, Briar Woods (Ashburn, Va.), NVVA)
The skinny: Bartus, Mackiewicz and Wilden are 2016 VolleyballMag.com Boys’ Fab 50 selections, while Pierce earned 2016 VolleyballMag.com Boys’ High School All-American second-team honors.
Penn State assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Colin McMillan likes this group’s versatility.
“Our class added size and athleticism to our team at a variety of positions,” he said. “The ability of these players to be put in multiple positions will give us good options and lineup flexibility for years to come.”
Pierce comes from a family volleyball background. His father, Robert, is heavily involved in the club scene and sister, Kendall, played at Penn State, while other sister, Lainy, is currently on the Penn State women’s team.
7. Princeton Tigers
Incoming players: Parker Dixon (6-6, OH, St. Mark’s (Dallas, Texas), Summit Nitro), Shane Gooding (6-4, S, Corona del Mar (Newport Beach, Calif.), Balboa Bay), George Huhmann (6-11, MB, University (St. Louis, Mo.), St. Louis HP), Greg Luck (6-5, OH, South Pasadena (Calif.), SG Elite).
The skinny: Coach Sam Shweisky continues to improve the talent pipeline at Princeton, as evidenced by this Top 10 class. Huhmann is a 2016 VolleyballMag.com Boys’ Fab 50 selection who was part of the 2015 boys’ youth national team that placed seventh at the U19 worlds. Dixon, a multi-sport athlete in high school, comes out of Texas and was selected to three USAV training teams. Gooding comes from the well-regarded Corona del Mar high-school program and the Balboa Bay club program. Luck was part of two South Pasadena teams that won CIF titles.
“2016 could turn out to be the best recruiting class we have ever had in the history of the program,” Shweisky said. “George is a 7-foot starting middle on the junior national team, while Parker and Greg are both 6-5/6-6 pins who could start right away and have a huge impact on our program. What I like most about this class is its size and athleticism.”
8. UC Irvine Anteaters
Incoming players: Sean Dennis (6-11, MB, Bonita (La Verne, Calif.), SG Elite), Zack Mills (6-5, RS-OH, Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.), 949 VBC), Patrick Sohacki (6-6, RS-OH, Eastlake (Chula Vista, Calif.), Coast), Scott Stadick (7-0, MB, Watertown (Wis.), Milwaukee Sting), Austin Wilmot (6-9, OH, Crespi Carmelite (Encino, Calif.), West Edge)
The skinny: The Anteaters added three 2016 VolleyballMag.com Fab 50 selections in Dennis, Sohacki and Stadick, whose sister, Katie, plays at Illinois, and another sister, Deb, who played at Iowa State. This class also features considerable size with Stadick at 7-feet (the tallest in the class), Dennis right behind him at 6-11 and Wimot measuring 6-9.
“The human and athletic potential of this recruiting class is special,” said Anteaters coach David Kniffin. “The personalities will be fun to work with and if they are willing to do the work, these five could be significant contributors to future championship campaigns.”
9. Loyola-Chicago Ramblers
Incoming players: Brandon Baranski (6-3, OH, Minooka (Ill.), Uno VBC), Ian Cowen (6-5, S, Hilliard (Ohio) Darby, Vanguard), Jake Freeman (5-10, libero, Dana Hills (Dana Point, Calif.), 949 VBC), Kyler Kotsakis (6-5, RS, Glenbard West (Glen Ellyn, Ill.), Sports Performance), Jake Linsky (6-7, MB, Northwood (Irvine, Calif.), 949 VBC), Kyle Piekarski (6-8, MB, Plainfield (Ill.) North, Sports Performance).
The skinny: Loyola-Chicago ties Ohio State and UC Santa Barbara for the most 2016 VolleyballMag.com Boys’ Fab 50 selections with five (Cowen, Freeman, Kotsakis, Linsky and Piekarski). Loyola, like Chicago-area brethren Lewis, tapped into the talent-rich Chicago pool and secured Baranski, Kotsakis (who teamed in high school and club with Stanford recruit Paul Bischoff) and Piekarski.
“This class solidifies our roster in a lot of important places and will instantly increase the competitiveness of our gym,” Loyola coach Mark Hulse said. “Five are Fab 50 selections and every guy brings something new to the gym, which gives you a route to the starting lineup, potentially right away.”
(Loyola photos by Steve Woltmann/Loyola Athletics)
10. Long Beach State 49ers
Incoming players: Trevor Briggs (6-0, libero, Bishop Alemany (Mission Hills, Calif.), Legacy VBC), Zane Griggs (6-8, OH, Eastside (Lancaster, Calif.), Legacy VBC), James Thomas (6-2, OH, Santa Margarita Catholic (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.), Balboa Bay.
The skinny: The 49ers addressed their needs at the pin and in the back-row with this small, but strong recruiting class. Briggs is a 2016 VolleyballMag.com Boys’ Fab 50 selection. Briggs was a three-time all-league performer in high school, while Griggs earned a player of the year honor during his Eastside time. Thomas was an all-state selection at Santa Margarita Catholic as a senior and was a four-time all-league first-team choice.
“Trevor has a high volleyball IQ and is a volleyball junkie,” 49ers coach Alan Knipe said. “Zane is a big kid who can play multiple positions. He started the sport late, but will make it up fast. James is a solid all-around player who has won a lot and can help us in many ways.
“We didn’t go for numbers with this class. We love the quality. They all help us as players and add to our already great team culture.”
Others receiving votes: BYU, George Mason, Pepperdine, USC