As a first-year member of the Loyola men’s volleyball team, outside hitter Collin Mahan, 21, expected to watch and learn from outside hitter Thomas Jaeschke. Jaeschke ended up leaving Loyola after the 2015 season to play on the U.S. National Team — leaving Mahan to fill his role.
During his first year, Mahan was able to work with the same setter Jaeschke played with. Mahan, a junior finance and information systems double major, said although starting his first year with the team was hard, he was glad he could do it.
“It just put a lot of pressure on me right away,” Mahan said. “Some guys don’t really get that kind of pressure right off the bat to play at such a high level right away. I was kind of given that pressure, just going into [a team that was] back-to-back national champions as a [first-year], now starting it was definitely a tough role to fill, but I did my best.”
Playing the same position as Jaeschke, Mahan said he admires and tries to model his game after him.
“It’s just really cool … to [be] following in his footsteps and playing with the same setter my [first] year,” Mahan said. “It was kind of a cool experience. Just tailoring my game to his game is something that I have been working on.”
Before coming to Loyola, Mahan played for the Under-19 National Team and the Junior National Team. He said the speed of the game readied him for college play.
“I guess [the teams] just kind of got me prepared to play at such a high level,” Mahan said. “Some guys, just playing high school and club don’t really get that high-level experience that is Division I volleyball. It kind of gave me that taste and how to play right before I came and actually played here.”
Head coach Mark Hulse said Mahan came in and has been one of the team’s most consistent players since the beginning of his career.
“With some of the experience he had, he was able to fit in systematically,” Hulse said. “He knew what we were doing and sometimes that’s hard because we do things a little faster, some of the verbiage is a little different. He was comfortable with that and that made a huge difference.”
During his time at Loyola, Mahan has developed his skills and stepped into more of a leadership role, according to Hulse.
“Now you get to be an older guy, and there’s an expectation that you gotta teach down the line the same way that was taught to him by some of the older guys a few years ago,” Hulse said. “He has done a nice job with it. Guys trust him because he’s built some good relationships there and if you have the relationships, you can say a lot more, and I think guys are more responsive to it.”
First-year setter Garrett Zolg knows first-hand what it’s like to work with Mahan on and off the court. Zolg said during his official visit last year, he stayed in Mahan’s dorm and had a fun experience learning from Mahan.
“When I was being recruited, I would watch some of their games and I knew he was one of their better players even though when I was being recruited, he was a young guy on the team,” Zolg said. “He was already taking a lot of the load, and I was pretty impressed by what I saw from him. So I knew when I came in he would be one of our best players.”
So far this season, Mahan has reached double figures in kills in 19 of 21 games. Hulse said he is consistent and takes on a big responsibility during the matches, which makes it hard for opposing teams.
“He’s good in a few different positions,” Hulse said. “He can serve it, he can pass it, he plays great defense, he attacks at a really high level, he can hit the bic. He does all these different things and I would imagine he’s probably pretty tough to game plan against because he just does it all.”
Hulse and Zolg agree Mahan has the potential to grow during the rest of his time at Loyola. Zolg said Mahan is the best outside hitter he’s ever played with, while Hulse said Mahan does everything in his power to improve his game.
“He brings this really good growth mindset to it where he comes in everyday inquisitive, he is asking questions, watching video, he’s seeing what can [he] get better at,” Hulse said. “Then he is really committed to trying some different things to get better and at times taking a step backward to take two steps forward. It’s pretty cool to watch.”
Mahan said the team spends a lot of time together. Even after long road trips to and from away games, the players still watch Netflix in the locker room together and face off against one another in Guitar Hero. Both Mahan and Zolg attribute the team’s success this season to the relationship the players have built off the court.
“[Mahan] really likes to have a good time with the guys,” Zolg said. “That’s one of the reasons I think we are doing so well … on and off the court, we are really close. I think our team chemistry and just bonding together as well is why we are having such a good season so far.”
Mahan and the Ramblers are scheduled to finish their season with a four-game road trip beginning in Columbus, Ohio where they will face The Ohio State University March 29.