With a majority of players returning from last year’s squad, the UCSB men’s volleyball team will have only three recruits coming in for next season. Although the incoming freshmen bring athleticism and talent, the Gauchos will rely on the core of returning players from last season to improve on its recent postseason run.
“I don’t think they’re separated from any of the last few classes we got after we went to the finals,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “We’ve gotten some good quality classes and I think these guys are good gets for us for sure, and they’re going to be great Gauchos down the road.”
With five seniors leaving, including AVCA First-Team All-American middle blocker Dylan Davis and outside hitter Miles Evans, the Gauchos welcome middle blocker Ryan Kasseff from Mira Costa High School, outside hitter Bobby Curtis out of Nevada Union High School and setter Grady Zant from Mater Dei High School.
Kasseff recently led his high school to the CIF semifinals and finished with a .537 hitting percentage and 31 solo blocks. At 6’5’’, Kasseff does maintain the capabilities to start for the Gauchos but will not be a replacement for Davis; instead UCSB will rely on the veterans to fill the void.
“The other guys are all going to be all a little stronger, a little more experienced, a little better and that’s the way that you can kind of replace one guy,” McLaughlin said. “[Kasseff] isn’t necessarily going to be Dylan Davis; he doesn’t have to be, but as long as the other guys around him take another step forward, we can overcome that.”
In his senior season playing for the Nevada Union, Curtis led the team to a 20-6 overall record and a regular season division title. Curtis will have to battle for playing time despite the loss of Evans as the Gauchos already have depth at the outside hitter position.
“[Redshirt Jacob Delson] will probably make a push for some time as well as Kevin Donohue, who hurt his shoulder in the middle of the year,” McLaughlin said. “There are a lot of experienced guys returning and its going to be tough for the freshmen to make an immediate impact.”
Zant is in a similar position as Curtis; the setter will most likely have to play backup to All-MPSF honorable mention Jonah Seif who played a significant role in the Gauchos’ run to the postseason this year.
With three confirmed recruits for the upcoming season, McLaughlin is still in the works for recruiting transfers, but will limit the roster to 20 players.
“We don’t want to go over a 20 person limit ever because we want to train everyone that’s in the gym at all times and we don’t want to have anyone sitting around,” McLaughlin said. “We lost five [seniors], so we have three [incoming players] and we’re working on a couple of transfers; we’ll see what happens.”
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of May 20th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Magali Gauthier of the Daily Nexus.