College Sports

No. 2 UCLA opens McKendree men’s volleyball season at Statham Center

The McKendree men’s volleyball team is leaping head-long into its 2019 season.

UCLA, ranked No. 2 in the NCAA Divisions I-II preseason poll by the American Volleyball Coaches Association, arrive at the Statham Center Friday night. The Bruins already are 2-0, including Wednesday’s win over No. 12 Cal State-Northridge.

Friday’s contest will mark UCLA’s first visit to Lebanon.

McKendree head coach Nickie Sanlin, entering her sixth season, expects to learn a lot about her young team when the Bruins come to town.

“We’re excited to begin our 2019 season at home,” said Sanlin. “We look forward to hosting a nationally-ranked opponent such as UCLA right out of the gate. We want to see where we are as a young team and this experience will definitely help us as we start the new year.”

McKendree has several familiar faces back from a team that posted 11 victories and went 6-8 in Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) play last year.

Among them is sophomore outside hitter Patrick Ross, who is the team’s leading returnee on offense. Ross collected 183 kills along with 118 digs and 21 blocks in 2018 and earned MIVA All-Freshman Team honors for his efforts.

Senior libero Zach Thompson enters his fourth year as a starter along the Bearcats’ back row. His team-high 216 digs was tied for fifth in the MIVA.

Another key returnee is sophomore middle blocker Wyatt Dimke, who was second on the squad with 72 blocks while adding 117 attacks in 2018. Other players who saw extensive playing time last season include junior setter Zach Schnittker, sophomore outside hitter Ethan Carroll and senior outside hitter Will Frank.

Sanlin has brought in a solid recruiting class after losing four starters from last year’s team to graduation. Among the top players expected to contribute to the Bearcats’ lineup this season include freshman setter Ryan Serrano.

A busy opening weekend includes a match against the University of Charleston Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. In all, the Bearcats will have eight home contests this season, four of which will come against NCAA Division I opponents. McKendree will also face a trio of Division I foes at the BYU Invite March 21-23 in Provo, Utah.

The Bearcats will square off against the University of Hawaii, host Brigham Young University and Princeton University over the three-game stretch.