To D3 and Beyond: NVA Edition

Last month I featured a number of athletes from the Division III world who have continued their volleyball careers at the professional level with the Volleyball League of America. Alongside the VLA – there is a 2nd domestic pro league called the National Volleyball Association (NVA) which also features a number of D3 alumni who will be competing in this weekends final regular season event.

Las Vegas Ramblers

  • Quinn Peterson – RS – #12

A two-time AVCA All-American selection, Quinn is Juniata’s record holder for career kills in the rally era, and ranks top 5 all-time (quite the accomplishment for such a storied program including the sideout era). Quinn was a career volume attacker who somehow got stronger with every swing- highlighted by a career high 32 Kills as a sophomore in the NCAA Tournament win over NYU during the 2017 season. You could also argue one of the best mullets in DIII volleyball

Utah Stingers

  • Paul Clark – OH – #1

Affectionately known as “Cougar Clark”, Paul was the heart and soul of the Southern Virginia teams until his graduation in 2020. A first team All-American in 2019, Clark was the perfect compliment as an OH2 to fellow outside Nahuel Recabarren. Clark provided stellar ball control, both in serve receive and as an attacker. You’re more likely to see Clark don the libero jersey these days, but I’m sure he could still dial back the clock if needed.

Chicago Untouchables

  • Ian Capp – S – #4 – Kean

Arguably the most talented player in Division III during the NCAA era (I’m still leaning towards Christian Smith), you’ll recognize Capp’s name if you volleyball anywhere at any level. A grass volleyball phenom and one of the best doubles players on the east coast- you can also make the argument that Ian is even better under the blue sky than a traditional 6s setting. Unquestionably the NVA’s best server, Capp joined the Untouchables for weekend #2, and directed the offense to an undefeated weekend. I expect to see more high level play from Capp again.

  • Jake Milnazik – OH – #9 – Kean

Capp’s 5 year running mate with the Cougars, Milnazik finally had his breakout season in a shortened 2021 campaign, just as somebody predicted… Milnazik is the total package on the pins. He provides stellar serve receive , has a big serve, and runs as fast of tempo as anyone I’ve seen at the DIII level which helped him be recognized as an AVCA All-American in 2021. Milnazik also missed event #1 so he is undefeated with the Untouchable and will look to keep them that way as they push towards the playoffs.

  • Will Ragland – OH – #13 – Carthage/Eastern Mennonite

One of most underrated players in DIII within the past 5 years, Ragland was a huge part of EMU’s return to relevance in both 2017 and 2018. Unfortunately, his teams floundered in the conference tournament (there is a common thread I won’t tug at) but rarely did Ragland fail to rise to the occasion. A power player, Ragland approaches, swings, and serves with a ton of power. If you’ve ever watched him hand pass, I think it would be fair to say he power passes too. We will see if he can help power the Untouchables into the playoffs this weekend.

  • Thomas Burrell – MB – #18 – Stevens

A two time AVCA All-American, I think it’s fair to say that Tom has the quickest arm either side of the Mississippi in the NVA. Despite being a bit undersized , Burrell uses every ounce of his athleticism to the highest degree- specifically his quickness to control the net. Tom ranks 2nd all-time in Blocks/Set and 10th in total blocks. His 2018 season is littered across the record books, hitting .507 and blocking 1.4 balls per set. Burrell spent his college career turning heads, and if he plays just as well this weekend he will leave opponents saying “What the duck?” (get it!?!).

  • Matt Buffum – MB – #20

Tell me if you have heard this one before, but Buffum was one of the most underrated players in the country during his 2018 senior season. Lost among the shuffle of the outstanding UVC middles (Burrell, Ferraro, Knigge [Should have been NPoY]). Buffum was an elite blocker and high volume offensive option for the Soaring Eagles, While that volume may chip away at his efficiency- his route versatility makes him a viable option for setters at a variety of times.

New Jersey’s Team Freedom

  • Ron Dunn – S – #1 – Kean

Possibly the “Godfather” of Team Freedom, Dunn led Kean to 4 NCAA Tournaments in 4 seasons as the starting setter. An incredibly physical setter who excels at funneling the ball to his best hitters, Dunn had the Cougars peaking during the 2015 season, highlighted by a weekend where they upset Juniata in 5 sets and swept Springfield the next day (#1 & 3 respectively at the time). Dunn is now top dog with Team Freedom this weekend and we will have to see how he and the crew respond.

  • Jake Modestow – MB – #2 – Stevens

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.

  • Matt Elias – S – #4 – Juniata

Directing the Eagles offense starting his freshman year, Elias helped them soar to the NCAA Tournament in 2013 and then the National Championship match in 2014. Quick as a cat and jumping like a ring-tail lemur, Elias is an explosive athlete who does an excellent job featuring all the tools he has at his disposal. Elias will need to elevate his teammates even more this weekend as Freedom has a few injuries while looking to secure a top seed.

  • Besmir Arslani – OH – #8 – Kean

A two time AVCA All-American, Arslani was one of the most explosive attackers in nation during all four of his seasons. A big leaper with an equally big arm, Arslani could score from all over the floor. He plays with an intensity and emotion that is tough to match when things are going well. If Arslani can catch fire this weekend, you’ll hear Freedom ringing in.

  • Chris Vaughan – OH – #9 – Stevens

Another two time AVCA All-American outside, Vaughan is no stranger to being on a team with a ridiculous collection of talent. Winning a National Title with the Ducks in 2015, Vaughan subbed in as libero during the 5th set of the National Semi-Final and then helped the Ducks sweep the title wearing a different color jersey. His ball control and skill level are only surpassed by his big personality and unbelievable charisma. Unfortunately, we won’t see this AVP Pro over the weekend due to an ankle injury.

  • John Cunningham – L – #15 – Kean

Another Cougar alumnus (there certainly are a lot of them), Cunningham is the most undersung and has overcome the most adversity. Originally an OH2 who provided top notch ball control and defense, John tore his PCL heading into the final year of his eligibility, rather than opting for surgery- Cunningham made the transition to libero and never looked back. An instinctual defender with a flair for the spectacular, Cunningham will be keeping Freedom in system as well extending rallies for the boys.

  • Joe Norman – RS – #20 – New Paltz

Without a doubt, the most physical player on this list. Norman is an ABSOLUTE UNIT. The 6’9 right side is the go to guy for Team Freedom, just as he was for New Paltz during the 2016 National Championship match versus Springfield. A break glass in case of emergency tool, Norman consistently bails out his team as an out of system attacker using the excess of size and athleticism he was gifted with. Since Freedom is down a few pins, I think we can expect to see him receive a heavy volume of attacks.

  • Jordan Robinson – L – #22 – Springfield

The former Pride libero was part of the first NCAA title team during his final season with team. A lighting quick libero, Robinson navigates the floor very smoothly while providing great receive with a picture perfect platform (and mustache).