Men's Volleyball

First-Year Finding Defensive Success for Men’s Volleyball

Ariana Allen | The PhoenixGarrett Zolg plays for the Ramblers during his first season.

Transitioning to college life is never easy, especially when you’re moving halfway across the country. But first-year setter Garrett Zolg has made his mark on the Loyola men’s volleyball team (4-2) so far this season after coming to Loyola from Santa Ana, California.

Zolg, 19, who made his college debut against Brigham Young University Jan. 5, recorded 46 assists and 13 digs during the match. During his second career match against University of California, Irvine, he recorded another 40 assists and 13 digs. This start earned him Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) Defensive Player of the Week. He said he couldn’t earn the honor without help.

“It starts off with the guys at the net. They are taking up a lot of space and making some great moves,” Zolg said. “A lot of those balls that I am digging are off the block.”

Playing soccer from kindergarten until eighth grade, Zolg said he found himself worn out and sick of the sport he once loved. In eighth grade, he decided to try out for the school’s volleyball team.

“Just me and a bunch of buddies started doing a bunch of clinics like a mile from my house,” Zolg said. “Half way through the [season] I just realized I had a love for [volleyball].”

Zolg’s playing style is different from other players, according to head coach Mark Hulse. Hulse said he plays a faster paced game and has adjusted to quicker transitions than some of his teammates and competitors.

“I think around here sometimes you get big guys who want to play big, high and maybe a little slower,” Hulse said. “So if you can take some big guys and get them moving a little bit faster, hopefully you can score some points.”

Junior outside hitter Collin Mahan said Zolg is a good addition to the team and he believes Zolg will make an impact on the program.

“He always works hard for us and he never quits,” Mahan said. “As a [first-year] to have that kind of energy is great. It’s great to have on the team.”

Hulse said Zolg has a determination about him not a lot of players have and he has a passion about the game that rubs off onto his teammates on the court.

“He leads pretty well. He doesn’t always lead from the front, but he is always tapping guys on the butt, getting them going and looking people in the eye,” Hulse said. “He has a good effect on team morale, kind of across the board.”

Zolg said while the coaching staff has helped him with his transition to collegiate volleyball, his teammates have also played a role.

“The guys are great. They really support me on the court,” Zolg said. “They like that I am going to work hard for them so they are going to work hard for me. It is a mutual relationship with those guys.”

Mahan said he knows the adjustment to classes and college volleyball can be difficult and so he said he’s been helping Zolg and the other two first-years adjust.

“[I] give [Zolg] a few pointers, some of the things that [happen] during college, some of the small things that people don’t tell you about before you get here,” Mahan said. “Especially him being such a good teammate, I want to make sure he feels involved.”

Both Mahan and Hulse said Zolg has been playing well so far. Mahan said Zolg has high expectations of himself and he’s done a good job, especially as a first-year.

“I think he just brings a great amount of execution,” Mahan said. “He had big shoes to fill between [2016 graduate] Peter Hutz from a couple years ago and even Ian [Cowen] from last year did a great job. Him and [Cowen] have been battling it out in the gym. He has just been doing a really good job as a freshman. It is cool to see.”

Zolg said he’s enjoyed the season so far and is looking forward to playing The Ohio State University and traveling with the team.

“My favorite part about playing in college is you get to travel around,” Zolg said. “You get to playing in some cool venues, especially starting off the season at BYU, and winning in front of that crowd. There was nothing that I have ever experienced like that, it’s a once [in] a lifetime thing.”

Zolg and the Ramblers are scheduled to continue their nine-game homestand against University of California, Santa Barbara Jan. 25 and California State University, Northridge Jan. 27 at Gentile Arena.

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