Aaron Mansfield knows how to get low.
The senior libero out of Sunnyvale, Calif., has amassed 987 career digs to secure his spot atop the UCSB men’s volleyball career list by besting Assistant Coach Todd Rogers’ 1996 high of 783 digs.
“Todd has helped me a lot, especially defensively,” Mansfield said. “The coaching staff has been great.”
The NCAA instituted the libero as an official position for the 2001 season, making Mansfield the first four-year libero the Gauchos have ever seen. UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said Mansfield has been the perfect candidate for the job.
“It has definitely changed the game because the libero is out there so much they should be digging more than anyone in the game, and that’s why he’s the leading career digger,” Preston said. “He’s definitely become a better digger over his years here.”
Had the libero position not been instituted two years prior to his freshman year of eligibility, the 5’10” anthropology major might not have had the opportunity to play volleyball at the collegiate level.
“If it weren’t for the creation of the libero position two years before I was a freshman, I don’t think I would be playing college ball,” Mansfield said. “The position suits my strengths – passing and digging – very well. I like being able to see everything that going on in front of me from the back row.”
Preston has given Mansfield, also known as “Mansey,” the additional responsibility of calling serve targets, a decision usually made on the sidelines by the coaching staff. Senior outside hitter Adam Ulfers, Mansfield’s teammate of five years and current roommate, said that Mansfield is deserving of the job.
“[Mansfield is] the kind of guy that takes control of pretty much any situation,” Ulfers said. “You can always count on him to make sure things are going the way they should be going. He’s definitely a player I’ve tried to model myself after.”
Last year, Mansfield led the nation with 280 digs to break his own 2003 record of 265 single-season digs at UCSB en route to being named second team All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. His prowess in the backcourt is essential to Santa Barbara’s serve-receive scheme.
“He’s definitely set the bar extraordinarily high,” Ulfers said. “The next libero playing here will have enormous shoes to fill. He’s got an eye for the game.”
A quiet guy and a team captain for three years, Mansfield has found another sport to take up his free time off of the volleyball court.
“Keith Busam, who graduated two years ago, started playing golf so I started playing with him,” Mansfield said. “It’s a really good way for me to just relax.”
In addition to spending time on the golf course, Mansfield and his teammates have found a way to integrate some volleyball into their Saturday regimes – playing “ace.”
“It’s more a recreational game than anything else,” Ulfers said. “As the game progresses there are more and more aces and less volleyball.”
Mansfield said that the best part of his involvement with the volleyball program at UCSB has been the friends he has made.
“He’s the kind of guy that you can rely on and at the same time have a terrific time with,” Ulfers said. “He’s one of those friends that’s someone that when you need some help he’ll be there. I’d say that we are homies.”
Despite the lack of a decent indoor professional volleyball organization in the United States, Mansfield plans to stay involved in volleyball after graduation by playing beach volleyball and will be the volunteer assistant coach for the UCSB women’s volleyball team during the 2005 season.
“He’s been a real steady influence for four years and it’s going to be tough to let him go,” Preston said. “He can do pretty much anything he wants to do most easily.”