I could spend ages talking about how important the Setter is on a Volleyball Team. But at the end of the day I’m not sure my words would be effective in conveying their importance. Thankfully, Wayne Kreklow (Former Head Coach of Missouri Women’s Volleyball and NBA Champion on the Boston Celtics) perfectly states it below.
“The setter is arguably the most important player on any volleyball team. Not only does the setter touch the ball more often than anyone else on the floor, but they also decides who attacks the ball, what kind of ball they are attacking, where along the net they are going to attack, and how often they are going to attack. The setter controls the tempo of the match and has a more influential role in the outcome than any other player on the floor. All great teams in any sport have one thing in common: a great facilitator.”
– Wayne Kreklow, Training Setters, “The Volleyball Coaching Bible”, pg. 479.
A man much smarter than me for sure (he is featured in a must own Volleyball book for any coach and the 1981 Celtics were sweet). 2021 will not be short of impactful signal callers. While I would love to dive into them all, a few stand out above the rest. If you’re a Setter playing this year, these young men are your competition. They are the mountain you must climb to be at the top in D3 Volleyball. Prove me wrong, make me write about you next season.
As a disclaimer, possible incoming freshmen were not included on this list, as I will be doing a featured piece on my most impactful recruits at a later date.
Matt Grace (SUNY New Paltz)
Matt Grace stands atop the mountain of D3 setters going into 2021. In the Covid shortened season, Matt Grace led New Paltz to a 16-3 record while averaging 11 assists per set. He was the only setter to make the All-American First-team in 2020, and was the 2020 UVC Co-Player of the Year.
He has an aggressive serve, great instincts, and knows you can always force the Opposite in a Radu Petrus offense. As a national champion (2019) with proven on court leadership, his return to New Paltz will keep their top ten offense running on all cylinders.
2020: 1st-Team All-American / AVCA North All-Region / UVC Co-Player of the Year / UVC 1st-Team
2019: 2nd-Team All-American / UVC 1st-Team
2018: UVC 2nd-Team
Ian Capp (Kean)
Ian Capp was one of the rising Kean seniors to take the 2020 season off. He returns to a new landscape, but remains one of the best setters in Division III.
In 2019 Kean went back and forth between a 6-2 and 5-1 offense. Capp played Opposite in the front row while setting in the backrow during the 6-2. When setting in the 5-1 he averaged 9.75 assists per set. In the 6-2 he averaged 5.58 assists per set while swinging for .427 on 171 attempts. To put that in perspective, Christian Smith of New Paltz (2013-2016 and possibly the top DIII setter this decade) averaged a .328 hitting percentage and 5.74 assists/set while running a 6-2 and playing opposite.
Ian Capp can ball, simple as that. His return to Kean is a huge boost, and whether in the 6-2 or 5-1 his versatility makes him one of the top setters in Division III.
2019: 2nd-Team All-American / CVC Player of the Year / CVC 1st-Team
2018: 2nd-Team All-American / CVC 1st-Team
2017: Skyline Tournament MVP
Jack McGuire (Dominican)
If you have never heard of Jack McGuire… well you’re most likely from the East Coast. Jack was an All-American honorable mention in 2020, and even then I think that understates his skill. I’ve watched a ton of film on him in the last few weeks and I believe he is one of the top 3 setters in the country coming into 2021. On court leadership aside, he helped make Dominican the 4th most efficient offense in the country as they hit .332 on the season. Returning for his senior season with a loaded Dominican squad, I have Jack rounding out my top 3.
2020: All-American Honorable Mention / AVCA West All-Region / NACC Player of the Year / NACC 1st-Team
2019: 1st-Team NACC
2018: 1st-Team NACC
Justin Tuohy (Rutgers-Newark)
One of the biggest surprises of the 2020 season had to be the emergence of Rutgers-Newark on the national scene, facilitated by Justin Tuohy. Tuohy averaged 10.95 assists/set in his freshmen season and garnered a 2nd-Team All-American honor for his work. His game reminds me a lot of Kevin Aeckerle (Stevens Setter from 2015) and if that comparison is accurate Tuohy is in for a successful career. He’s a tad undersized for the position, but makes up for it with silky smooth hands and solid ball control.
2020: 2nd-Team All-American / AVCA East All-Region / CVC 1st-Team
Matt Lilley (Springfield)
How many jousts can one guy win in a season? Jokes aside, Lilley shows what a little bit of luck combined with preparation and opportunity can lead to. Lilley stepped into the starting role for the Pride this year and never looked back. He was top 10 in assists on the year, averaging 10.35 assists per set while helping Springfield boast the most efficient offense in all of DIII (hit .336). His high IQ game and veteran leadership helped Springfield lay claim to the #1 Ranking in DIII and finished the season with an All-American honor.
2020: 2nd-Team All-American / AVCA Northeast All-Region
Article was corrected to break down Ian Capp’s per set performances between running the 5-1 and 6-2, as the original per set numbers were skewed by the vast amount of 5-1 games he played during the season. (7/9/2020)
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