Too often, Division III is seen as a last resort. The allure of “D1 or bust” has only grown in the age of social media, and it really is too bad. In my personal opinion, the gap between high level Division III volleyball and low level Division I/II is the smallest of any sport in the NCAA. Regardless of sport, there are a myriad of excellent student-athletes who could have excelled at a higher level but have chosen to compete in Division III.
With that being said- I want to highlight those who have taken their talents “TO D3 AND BEYOND” and will be competing in the VLA Cup this weekend. I know many don’t take “professional” volleyball serious in America, but every league has to start somewhere. Having played with, against, and around most of these men for the past 10 years- I can tell you that there is serious talent and potential for professional volleyball in America (I plan on doing something similar for NVA in two weeks time). So let’s get started.
- Griffin Shields – RS – #13 – Carthage
A 3 Time AVCA All-American selection, Shields is one of the most decorated student-athletes from Carthage (which is saying something). A true 6’8, he is a physical monster who can power through, navigate around, or elevate above nearly any block he encounters.
- Will Craft – OH – #88 – Carthage
A 2016 AVCA 2nd Team All-American selection, Craft improved every year as a Redman (now Firebirds [should be War Elephants]). A springy, lanky outside hitter- he has continued to improve during the last few seasons playing abroad. While teammate Dave Wieczorek may get the publicity and love from announcing crew- Craft is just as integral for keeping the Iceman calm, cool, and collected on offense.
- Chris Hosley – RS – #1 – Springfield
This is one for the old heads. Hosley competed for the well renowned Springfield Pride from 2001-2004 helping the team win three Division III Molten Championships as well as squaring off with Division I titans as a member of the EIVA. Hosley has been instrumental in the formation and staying power of Team LVC as a cornerstone of professional volleyball in America.
- Christian Smith – S – #2 – New Paltz
Dollars for donuts, Christian Smith is the best player in Division III history during the NCAA era (all apologies to Matt Knigge). The 2016 AVCA National Player of the Year, Christian was also a 3 time AVCA First Team All-American. The New Paltz alum did a bit of everything, playing a S/RS in a 6-2 in 2014 and 2015 before getting the full reins to the offense in 2016. Christian is a physical marvel for the setting position, and when combined with his high volleyball IQ- he can pick apart opposing blocking schemes with ease. His New Paltz offenses were always top shelf, and I expect nothing less from Team LVC this weekend.
- Mike Pelletier – L – #3 – Springfield
A 2013 First Team AVCA All-American, Pelletier was a key cog in the Pride machine for the two first NCAA Division III Championships in history. Although he was crunching balls for Springfield on the outside, he has transitioned to the libero position as a stellar serve receiver for the Flamingo crew.
- Andrew Fishman – OH/L – #6 – Sage/SUNY New Paltz
A 2016 AVCA First Team All-American, Fishman was a key transfer for the Hawks when he arrived in 2015 following the departure of Tim Ferriter. Tim certainly left big shoes to fill, but Andy did not disappoint, first helping guide the Hawks to a Final 4 in 2015 before capturing the National Championship 2016. A big leaper with an even bigger serve, Fishman has always been an attacking force but you also may see him done the libero jersey for Team LVC from time to time.
- Andrew “AJ” Witofsky – MB – #8 – Endicott
Another legend of DIII’s Molten era, Witofsky is another stalwart of Team LVC and near founding father of Endicott- he was the first non-libero to be selected as an AVCA All-American for the Gulls (shoutout Dan Coleman)- earning the honors in both 2008 & 2010. Witofsky is not the flashiest middle you will watch this weekend, but he is a consistent performer for Team LVC. His consistency is only exceeded by his energy.
- Christopher Husman – MB – #14 – SUNY New Paltz
Undoubtedly one of the most versatile and creative attackers in Division III history and I am certain that will be on display this weekend. A 2 time AVCA First Team All-American, Chris was an elite point scorer and a major piece of the Hawk sideout machine. He will swing power, off-speed, tip, and even take a backward hammer swing every once in a while. If you don’t have fun watching Chris play- I’m not sure what is wrong with you.
- Kevin Nardone – L – #22 – SUNY New Paltz
The 3rd NP Hawk in this group should show you how special the Class of 2016 was for Radu Petrus and the New Paltz community. An unsung hero for New Paltz, Nardone was a pillar of consistency at the libero position providing excellent serve receive and defense for one of the country’s perennial contenders. NP was not always on top of the mountain, but Nardone’s class was one of the groups that helped get them there.
- David Evans – OH/L – #25(?) – Stevens Institute of Technology
Dave is not currently listed on the roster, but I happen to know he is en route to Indiana and played with Team LVC earlier this year (as well as the past few years). The 2015 AVCA National Player of the Year and 2 time AVCA All-American, Evans led the Ducks to their first and only National Championship in 2015- being the first team other than Springfield to win a title. Standing at maybe 5’11, Evans big arm and high jump is only outmatched by his work ethic and will to win- constantly finding ways to score points in an efficient manner, both as the central cog of the Quack Attack and now for Team LVC.
- Jon Keller – MB – #9 – Rutgers-Newark/Alvernia
Jon gets an honorable mention as Rutgers-Newark was DI during his playing days and he now coaches at Division III Alvernia University
- Ben Wolff – MB – #2 – Juniata
Another Division III legend, it is a shame Ben only had one year in the NCAA era. A 2012 AVCA First-Team All-American, Wolff was BIG in every sense of the word. From his physical size, to his play at the net, and presence on campus, Wolff leveraged that physicality for the Eagles and I would expect to see more the same for Ascension.
- To our knowledge Team Pineapple will feature no athletes with Division III roots or connections
- To our knowledge Rising Tide will feature no athletes with Division III roots or connections
- Cobi Moore – L – #2 – Lasell University
One of many Laser alumni on this Boston Bounce Squad- Cobi is a strong defender who graduated from the DS role to a starting libero in 2020 and 2021- unfortunately those shortened seasons didn’t allow him to put his true talents on display but his play with the Bounce will certainly do so.
- Dan Raffol – OH – #4 – Lasell University
A 3 time All-Conference selection for the Lasers, Raffol is a physical specimen who uses a ton of crafty shots to score from the pin. Although you may see him on the beach scene more often these days- he certainly is no slouch on the hardwood (or sportcourt) who will contribute to the Bounce.
- Zach Pindara – RS – #5 – Lasell University
Zach was listed on the Laser roster for the 2013 season.
- Jordan Aprea – L – #7 – Lasell University
Another Laser alumnus, Aprea was a four year starter for the Lasers from 2016-2019 and one of the fourteen players to collect over one thousand career digs, ranking 5th all time with 1,150. Jordan navigates the court well on defense and will keep plenty of rally’s alive for the Bounce.
- Greg Woods – RS – #8 – Springfield
One of the most explosive athletes in DIII Men’s Volleyball history, Greg’s play on the court was often as bright as his shoes. A two time National Champion, two time runner-up, and two time NCAA All-Tournament Team Selection- Woods always shined the most on the biggest stage. A huge leaper with great attacking technique, you were never “out of the Woods” when the Pride set the backside and you won’t be for the Bounce either.
- Ryan Love – OH – #9 – Wentworth Institute of Technology
One of the most recent grads on a VLA roster, Love capped his career with an AVCA All-American selection guiding the Leopards back into the NCAA Tournament and all the way to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2017 (more on that later). Love is another big leaper with high volleyball IQ who consistently finds ways to score.
- Pat MacDonald – RS – #11 – Lasell University
A 2 Time All-Conference Selection, McDonald was a major part of the most successful run of volleyball for the Lasers and much like his name sake, we were lovin’ it.
- Collin Ritter – S – #12 – Wentworth Institute of Technology
A 2 Time AVCA All-American, Ritter was the driving force behind the biggest period of Leopard volleyball success from 2014-2018 leading to the team to the Elite 8 in 2016 and then the Final Four in 2017, before being selected a First Team All-American in 2018 while running a 6-2. Ritter does a great job directing a balanced Bounce offense.
- Cameron Ponce – S – #4 – Johnson & Wales
A 3 Time All-Conference selection, Ponce was an extremely well rounded player who consistently stuffed the box score. Whether it was running a 5-1 on as part of a 6-2, Ponce never forgot his defensive duties while directing the offense.
- Skyler Kaufman – MB – #16 – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
An Honorable Mention AVCA All-American in 2019, Kaufman was big for the Engineers, both literally and figuratively. A consistent point scoers in every facet (blocking, attacking, and serving) Kaufman’s play at the net always set the tone for MIT and his blocking ability allowed the Engineers to be one nation’s peskiest defensive teams year in and year out. I expect we will see him have a similar effect for the Bounce.
- Jeff Vautrin – OH – #17 – Elms/Lasell College
An annual staple on the All-Conference team, Vautrin is arguably the most decorated Laser volleyball player and the driving force behind the teams NCAA Tournament berth in 2015. The founding father of Boston Bounce, Jeff has an insatiable apatite for volleyball as the Head Coach for both the Men and Women at his alma mater.
- Ollie Oshman – MB – #18 – Wentworth Institute of Technology
Criminally underrated for his entire career, in terms of accolades Oshman (even ignored for the Noah Prickett All-Stars) was a major contributor for the Leopard teams that went to the NCAA Tournament in 2017 & 2018. Oshman hit .508 in 2018 leading the nation in attack percentage.
- Tristan Davis – OH – #20 – Lasell University
Our final Laser alum, Davis was an All-Conference selection as the ying to Vautrin’s yang during the 2017 season. A terminal hitter from either pin, Davis also had the elite size and versatility that allowed him to play in the middle when needed.
- Neil Ferraro – MB – #21 – New York University
Arguably the most decorated DIII alum of the Bounce (which is saying something), Ferraro had an excellent career for the Violets. A 3 time AVCA All-American selection, Ferraro was a potent offensive weapon and expert blocker- patrolling the net and tormenting the United Volleyball Conference for four year, only to now provide the same service for the VLA.
- Francis Kokoros – MB/RS – #22 – Rivier University
A steady presence for the Raiders for four years, Kokoros was an efficient/versatile attacker down the middle and on the right side who always connect well with his setters.
- Ryan Jackson – OH – #24 – Lasell University
I spoke too soon, one more Laser. Ryan spent all 4 years as an important role player for the Lasers, including some setting during his Freshman season in 2013.
- Peter Klembczyk – L – #26 – Wentworth Institute of Technology
Another recent grad, Kelmbczyk was another big piece of the Leopard team that returned to the NCAA TOurnament this season. An AVCA First Team All-American, Peter led the backline in both serve receive and defense with excellent vocal directions and confident play.
- Mike Hansen – MB – #33 – Wentworth Institute of Technology
Another member of the famed 2017 Leopard team that advanced to the Final Four, Hansen served as an integral energy plug as well as backing up Oshman and All-American Middle Alex Potts.
- Jake Modestow – MB – #36 – Stevens Institute of Technology
An absolute BEHEMOTH of a man, Modestow was intimidating from the moment he walked in the gym before you even saw him play. Luckily, his play backed up his appearance. An elite blocking middle, Modestow holds the NCAA record for total blocks in a single season (173) while also ranking 9th and 17th in single season blocks/set records.
- Josue Castillo – OH – #3 – Ramapo College of New Jersey
Honorable Mention: Although Josue has Ramapo listed, I’m not sure he suited up for the Road Runners. Either way, Josue is quite the player and will be a joy to watch this weekend
- Thomas Nelson – OH – #4 – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
A 2 time All-American selection for the Engineers, Nelson is one in a long line of elite liberos to suit up for MIT. Listed as an outside for Sportconx, I would expect to see a high level of ball control from Nelson no matter the role we see him in.
- Jacob Zemba – RS – #1 – North Central College
An All-Conference selection and founding father of the NCC Cardinal volleyball program, don’t let Zemba’s size fool you. He is a big jumper with a whip for an arm.
- Rafal Kokoszka – MB – #2 – Lakeland University
Rafal was a 4 year member of the Muskies (#FishWithTeeth), during 3 of which Lakeland competed as a club team.
- Jordan Smith – S – #5 – Lakeland University
Jordan transferred to become a Muskie (#FishWithTeeth) when the program transitioned to varsity status in 2014. He directed an efficient offense in both seasons.
- Eryk Krzyzak – L – #7 – Dominican University
Eryk spent time as a member of the Dominican Stars roster.
- Brett Kaczmarek – OH – #11 – Lakeland University
was a 4 year member of the Muskies (#FishWithTeeth), during 3 of which Lakeland competed as a club team.
- Zach Lillig – MB – #13 – Carthage College
A 2 Time AVCA All-American selection, Lillig was a consistent blocking presence for the should be War Elephants from the start averaging .99 block/set for his entire career, good for 17th all time). On the offensive side of the ball, Lillig also used his height and length to attack efficiently, ranking 4th all-time in career attack percentage.
- Tim Robbins – MB – #14 – Lakeland Univesity
An undersized but quick middle blocker- Robbins always made the most of the tools available to him. He ranks 12th all-time in career blocks and 15th all-time in career blocks/set.
Team LVC 2
- Mike Brewster – OH – #3 – Pfeiffer University
Although Pfeiffer is now a DIII school, they used to be DII and sponsored men’s volleyball before cutting the program during their transition.
- Quinten Moore – RS – #14 – Pfeiffer/Eastern Mennonite
Quinten played at Eastern Mennonite University for one season in 2014. A big jumper with an absolute cannon, Quniten took a high volume of swings and consistently found ways to score despite every defense having a big focus on slowing him down.
New York Pride
- Anson Webb – MB – #2 – York College (NY)
Anson was a two year member and starter for York College.
- Dashaun Graham – MB – #3 – Rivier Univeristy
A four year starter and multiple time all-conference selection, Dashaun was one of DIIIs best athletes during his tenure, helping Rivier advance to the NCAA Tournament during both his junior and senior seasons (2018 & 2019).
- Jack McKee – RS – #11 – Baruch College
A 2014 AVCA First-Team All-American, McKee served as the go to pin hitter for the Bearcats his entire carer, ranking 3rd in NCAA history in single season kills with 516 during the 2014 campaign. He lead Baruch to 3 consecutive NCAA Tournaments including the 2014 Final Four where they became the first program to take a set from Springfield in the NCAA Tournament (taking them to 5 sets). An excellent blocker and exceptional attacker with a heavy arm, McKee played with a passion that always made the price of admission worth while.
- Nick Smith – OH – #14 – Baruch College
A multiple-time All-Conference selection, Smith played 2nd fiddle to McKee helping lead the team to post season success in all four years of his career.
- Matt Kinnebrew – RS – #16 – Juniata College/Grand Canyon University
Matt played at Juniata College before transferring to Grand Canyon.
Hopefully you enjoyed reading about all the Division III talent competing this weekend and throughout the VLA. Enjoy watching the matches and make sure you spend the .99 cents to support VLA and receive footage from court 2.