The team gathers together, excited after a big rally. The Men’s Volleyball team swept their first three home matches on Thursday, Friday and Monday. Photo by Mary Elisabeth
The No. 4 Men’s Volleyball team opened their season at home Thursday, Jan. 13 and Friday, Jan. 14 with back-to-back sweeps of the Erskine Flying Fleet (25-9, 25-19, 25-15), (25-17, 25-16, 25-16). The Waves continued to demolish opponents Monday, Jan. 17, besting the Princeton Tigers (25-21, 25-20, 25-20)
Erskine Double Victory
The visiting Erskine was on a disappointing road trip, opposing Pepperdine, USC and Pepperdine again in a back-to-back-to-back loss streak. After several postponements due to COVID-19, the Waves said they were happy to be back on the court.
“It was nice to see the guys play,” Head Coach David Hunt said. “I know how hard people work here to get not only our athletes back, but our students back on campus so, we’re really thankful that everyone’s healthy.”
Pepperdine led their first-ever meeting with Erskine on Thursday with a hitting average of .549, 11 blocks and 10 aces at the end of the match.
The Waves’ hitting average at Thursday’s match was record-breaking, the highest average since their 2007 game against Rutgers-Newark and the third-best mark in the rally-scoring era, according to Pepperdine Athletics.
Friday went off equally as hot, with a .443 hitting average for the Waves, 8 blocks and 14 aces.
The match started with a kill from sophomore setter Bryce Dvorak, assisted by graduate student middle blocker Austin Wilmot. Dvorak continued to build momentum with his first ace, establishing Pepperdine’s lead at 2-0.
Graduate student outside hitter Jaylen Jasper came out swinging on the right side. This is Jaspers’ first season with the Waves after graduating from Stanford in 2021, and Jasper said he feels “like the luckiest guy in the world.”
“I could not put into words how happy I am,” Jasper said. “Just being able to put on the jersey and step on the court and represent such an amazing institution, it’s such an amazing team,”
The Waves gave the Flying Fleet a handful of points to start the set, making four service errors by 10-6.
The two teams exchanged attacks and service errors before finally getting a rally at 14-10 with a dig from sophomore libero Trey Cole, an assist from Dvorak and swing from Jasper in the right side, landing in front of the opposing defender at the 10-foot line.
“First game of the season, I was super nervous going into it,” Jasper said. “But I think I calmed myself down a bit more tonight and really relied on my teammates to give me support and motivation, which they really came through.”
Pepperdine built energy as the set played on, with a notable kill from Wilmot landing on the line, leading the score to 20-14. Wilmot ended the night with five kills and three blocks and earned the MPSF Defensive Player of the Week award.
A sparring match at the net led to a challenge from Erskine, which was awarded to Pepperdine, bringing the score to set-point (24-17). Redshirt freshman outside hitter Joe Deluzio ended the set with a service ace, 25-17.
The second set opened with a serve from Dvorak that the Flying Fleet could not return. Dvorak had five aces this week — a team-high — which factored into him earning the MPSF Offensive Player of the Week award.
Wilmot and Jasper continued to play aggressively at the net, stuffing a hit from Erskine’s Jason Sall, bringing the score to 4-1. Redshirt sophomore Jacob Steele also got a piece of the action, slamming an overpass from Erskine at 6-1.
Graduate student outside hitter Spencer Wickens logged an ace, to which Erskine responded with a timeout.
Dvorak and sophomore middle blocker Andersen Fuller stuffed an attack at 10-5, but the next swing from the Flying Fleet’s Edgerrin Austin hit Jasper straight in the face; the Waves did not return the ball.
Service errors continued to dominate the second set, but the Waves continued to build their lead, holding the Flying Fleet to 14 points. Fuller went on a three-point serving streak, but Erksine hit around the Waves’ block at set-point, with one last comeback at 24-15.
Erskine’s Cole Vigo logged an ace, but Wickens swung and nailed a kill from the outside, one of his five of the night, ending the set 25-16.
In set three, the Waves switched up their lineup, putting Deluzio in outside. It wasn’t the only substitution of the set: senior outside hitter Ben Weinberg, graduate student outside hitter Alex Gettinger, redshirt senior opposite hitter Mason Tyler, redshirt sophomore middle blocker Ryan Wheeler and redshirt sophomore middle blocker Mike Scott all got on the court for the third set.
“For guys to go off the bench, we have a lot of depth because this is a really talented team until you know the 27th, 28th guy, so yeah, we’re gonna trust anyone out there,” Wickens said.
Erskine earned the first point of the set, but the lead was short lived. Point two, the Erskine defense passed too high, “Ceiling!” their bench yelled. “Firestone, Firestone!” the Waves bench returned, celebrating the point the gyms’ short dimensions gave them.
Dvorak earns the Waves two aces in his first four serves, expanding the Waves lead to 5-1. After an Erskine timeout, the two teams exchanged attacks but Pepperdine held the Flying Fleet to single digits.
Wilmot, Jasper and Deluzio log an ace each, bringing the score to 13-6. The Waves kept pressure at the net, with a kill from Weinberg and triple block by Weinberg, Scott and Tyler at 15-9 and 16-9.
Tyler collected two kills — the first of his career — increasing the Waves’ lead to 21-11.
The match ended with the Waves on the offense: a kill from Deluzio, a kill from Weinberg and an ace from Deluzio.
“It’s so early in the season, we just got to keep them there,” Hunt said. “We have the volleyball players, we have some depth this year, so just keeping them there.”
The Waves faced Princeton at home Monday, Jan. 18, a match the players said they were looking forward to.
“We’re excited for a tough team, it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Wickens said about the match.
Pepperdine came out strong against the Tigers, leading throughout the first set. The team’s overall energy was higher than against Erskine as the teams rallied and swung big at the net.
Errors dominated the first set — 9 service and 2 attack errors between the two teams, but the level of play stayed high. The Waves took the first set 25-21.
Set two saw more action from Princeton as they pushed back against the Waves. While Pepperdine led from the start, the Tigers closed the gap with two aces from Brady Wedbush, tightening the score 9-8.
After a Wickens kill, Steele busted a shoelace at 10-8, resulting in a brief pause in play, but the Waves didn’t let it slow them down. Dvorak logged an ace and Wilmot a kill, 13-9.
The two teams traded blows, the Waves swinging deep and wide while Princeton nailed down. Fuller logged an impressive kill from the middle at 16-12, swinging around Princeton’s triple-block, 16-12.
The Waves played scrappy with their defense and used their best weapons, redshirt freshman outside hitter Cole Rasic played backrow for Wilmot and Gettinger for Steele.
The energy heightened at set point, with Steele swinging at the block from the outside and Princeton returning each attack until Dvorak set Fuller in the middle, who put it away to end 25-20.
Set three started hot for the Waves with a line shot from Dvorak out of the right-side, assisted by Steele. Wilmot got the second kill of the set, and Wickens the third. The team logged a .493 hitting average and 45 kills against the Tigers.
Princeton kept pressure on, forcing the Waves into errors. Princeton challenged a Wilmot attack, reversing the score from 9-7 to 8-8. The teams kept pace, tying again at 10-10 and 12-12, but the Waves slowly pulled away with two kills from Steele and one from Jasper, making the score 15-13.
Wickens logged his eleventh kill of the night at 21-18 — the team high for the night. A double block from Steele and Wilmot pushed the Waves to 22-18 and a Steele kill to 24-19.
Fuller finished the match 25-20 with a tight swing into a Tigers’ block in the middle, his sixth kill.
The Waves will play UC Santa Barbara on Friday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.
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