Middle Hitter, Middle Blocker, Quick Hitter, Middle Attacker… all names we as a community have assigned those athletes standing in between the pins. They are quite literally the central pillar a team’s defense stands on, and critical to freeing up other hitters by constantly being a threat. They’re expected to read, go pin to pin, close blocks, and always be ready to attack the ball; AND THEY NEVER STOP MOVING. Here are the top middles going into 2021.
Nick O’Malley might be the purest version of the “Middle Hitter” classification of the position in D3. New Paltz as a program has not been a systematically good blocking team for several seasons; but they make up for this with aggressive serving and hitting efficiency. Nick O’Malley checks both of those boxes, as the New Paltz offense forces middle attacks at any point on the floor.
Nick O’Malley has excelled in this offense and stands as the dominant offensive middle in D3 going into 2021. You do not need to look to far to see the type of impact he has for the Hawks as well as the whole D3 landscape. His return from a season long back injury to the 2019 NCAA tournament helped contribute to a dominant post-season run resulting in a New Paltz National Championship. His return for a 5th season keeps New Paltz in prime position to defend their title.
2020: NVA/AVCA 1st-Team All-American / NVA/AVCA North Region Team / 1st-Team UVC
2019: 2nd-Team UVC
Gavin van Beveren
|Swings/ Set||Kill/Set||Hitting %||Blocks/Set||Aces/Set|
Gavin van Beveren concluded what must be one of the best Freshmen season campaigns in D3 history. The preseason rumors of his impact were true, as he quickly established himself as one of the most complete middles in the country. He was instrumental in Vassars 2020 success, highlighted by his performance over #1 New Paltz, going 8-0-11 hitting .772 in the 5-set victory.
The college game is faster, and freshmen generally need time to adjust to the speed and competition on the floor. Gavin will only improve from his freshmen experience, and with a whole season under his belt I see him taking a huge step forward in 2021, which should terrify all of D3.
2020: NVA/AVCA 1st-Team All-American / NVA/AVCA North Region Team / NVA/AVCA North Region Newcomer of the Year / 2nd-Team UVC / UVC Newcomer of the Year
Chris Parker had one of the quietest All-American campaigns I’ve ever seen. Springfield lived and died on the pins last year, with Brandow, York, and Anderson taking the majority of offensive attempts. Parker, he did exactly what middles are supposed to do at the higher level game. He closed blocks and kept the opposing teams honest.
A hitting efficiency over .500 is absurd, and having to worry about a middle who can score that easily frees up your pin hitters (even high use ones like Springfield). Chris has these numbers because he’s a workhorse. He’s constantly moving, he’s gets in the air to threaten the middle, and hustles pin to pin. His presence was key in helping Springfield defeat New Paltz this past season, as he went 4-0-8 with 4 Block Assists.
2020: NVA/AVCA 2nd-Team All-American / NVA/AVCA Northeast Region Team
Mat Molloy is the best blocker on this list, and is the best blocker in the entirety of D3 going into 2021. The Dominican offense doesn’t run through him, but it also doesn’t need. He has good spring and can put balls away when called upon.
Reading is the most important skill in Volleyball, and Matt’s blocking numbers are a testament to his reading abilities. Being able to track the ball from passer to hitter through decoys, fakes, moving bodies, and then an arm swing is one of the hardest things blockers have to do; its why Blockers fail more than they succeed. Matt leading the division in blocks as a Sophomore should have Dominican excited for this season, as he knocks on the door of another All-American campaign.
2020: NVA/AVCA All-American Honorable Mention / NVA/AVCA West Region Team / NACC Defensive Player of the Year / 1st-Team NACC
The Sophomore to Junior year jump is a sizable shift in athlete development, and Kevin Duffy is poised to make some waves in 2021. He has the size and strength to be the best middle in D3, his hitting efficiency and swing load were on par with the 1st-team All-Americans last year as Sophomore.
His jump float serve is frightening (I wouldn’t want to try passing it); don’t let the low ace numbers fool you. His combination of height and reach allows him to contact the ball above the net so that it’s coming down at an angle, which is the worst type of float serve to pass in the men’s game. He established himself as the best Middle in the CVC this past season, being the lone selection on the Conference 1st-team. Juniata’s new recruit class will complement his game, and as a rising Junior Duffy will be looked to for on court leadership.
2020: NVA/AVCA All-American Honorable Mention / NVA/AVCA East Region Team / 1st-Team CVC
2019: 3rd-Team CVC / 2nd-Team ECAC
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