Standing at 6’9”, 6’7” and 6’6”, this trio of middle blockers is full of interesting personalities and charisma on and off the court. Having a strong season so far with two of three currently ranked top 10 players in blocking and hitting in the NCAA, and the third coming off a career high game against USC, these three gentlemen are holding it down in the middle for the UCSB men’s volleyball team. I had the chance to sit down with Ryan Hardy, Jake Staahl and Ryan Thompson yesterday to chat about volleyball and everything else under the sun. Get to know these players a little better, and next time you see them towering over the crowds on campus you can give them a shout out.
What would you describe as your favorite UCSB volleyball memory?
Staahl: I would say one of my favorite memories is when Coach Rick drove us to go paintballing.
Hardy: Aw man, I was going to say that.
Staahl: Yeah, he told us we were going to go and do community service and we did a long drive and showed up at a paintball course. We had the whole paintball course just for the team. That was pretty awesome.
Hardy: I will change mine to our trip to Hawaii last year. We beat them in both games, and then we celebrated as a team afterwards. We were a lot closer after that trip.
Thompson: My favorite experience would probably also have to be Hawaii last year. So much fun!
If you could select one of your teammates to trade lives with for a single day who would you be, and why?
Hardy: I would be Weston Nielsen, because he is so attractive.
Staahl: On the volleyball court I would be Evan Licht because I have always wanted to play opposite.
Thompson: I would pick Matt Hanley because his personality is crazy, he is a pretty cool guy.
What do you think about Weston Nielsen’s hair?
Hardy: Well, he hasn’t washed it in over a year … but for some reason it still looks pretty good.
Staahl: He goes in the ocean a lot, I guess that is supposed to be good for your hair. I think his brother has better hair than Weston, much more flowy. His is a little bit curly for my taste.
What do you love most about the sport?
Staahl: I like volleyball because it is so rewarding, it’s just so fun to be responsible for getting a game point, whether that is from getting a block or a kill. It’s also really cool because it’s a team sport and your teammates are equally as responsible for getting those points.
Hardy: Yeah, at the end of each point you are always coming together to celebrate either something your teammates did or a point you scored yourself. That is definitely the best part.
What do you think about Wilson from Castaway, aka the most famous volleyball of all time?
Hardy: Our thoughts on Wilson? If he were actually a person, I would like to play volleyball with him. He seems like a good guy.
What is your personal theme song?
Hardy: (busts into song) “I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the mannnn” by Aloe Blacc.
Staahl: Hardy, that was a cop-out answer…
Thompson: Easy, “I Want to Be a Baller” by Lil’ Troy.
Staahl: I am going to go with “The World Should Revolve Around Me” by Little Jackie. It’s groovy, and it’s funny because it’s a woman who sings the song.
If you could pick one Chipotle topping to describe you, what would it be?
Thompson: The black beans, just because.
Hardy: I would be the guacamole … because everyone wants me, but not everyone can afford me.
Staahl: I would be pico de gallo because I’m not too spicy, and I get along with everybody.
What are your career goals after UCSB?
Staahl: I definitely at some point want to be working at a company doing some software stuff, ideally my own company … but at some point it would be cool if I could play volleyball overseas. I know no matter what, I have my degree. I am not relying on professional volleyball, but the experience would be amazing.
Thompson: Maybe I will go overseas to play volleyball, or maybe I will continue on with schooling. I haven’t thought that much about it yet, I am just excited for the rest of my time at UCSB.
Hardy: I agree with them, if the opportunity presents itself I want to go overseas to play. Not for the money, but because I have always wanted to travel. When I come back, I have always wanted to open a winery.
If you were stranded on an island with Head Coach Rick McLaughlin and could only bring one thing what would you bring?
Hardy: I would bring a boat … to take us both off of the island.
Staahl: I don’t know? Maybe a volleyball, we could pepper or something. Actually no, I would bring some golf clubs. We could hit some balls together.
What is one thing that you individually hope to accomplish during the rest of this season?
Hardy: Personally, I just want to prepare myself better as a leader on the court. I am still a younger player, and that is something that comes with experience. As far as team goals … I just want us to go all out in playoffs, and give us the shot that we deserve at a national title. When we play consistently we are unstoppable, and everyone else knows that too.
Staahl: I want to be the best middle in the league. That might be a little ambitious, but I figure that ambitious goals are better than practical ones.
Speaking of being the best, how does it feel to be No. 1 in the nation right now? Are people chasing you down for autographs yet?
Staahl: It feels great, no autographs yet.
Lastly, when I say Northridge and Long Beach you say…
Staahl: We won.
Hardy: Wait what, Staahl?
Staahl: I meant to say we are going to win…
Thompson: I don’t think what I want to say is appropriate.
Hardy: Go Gauchoooooos!
A version of this article appeared on page 8 of Feb. 12th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.