A pair of Pepperdine Waves volleyball players were recognized for their defensive prowess last week.
Waves women’s volleyball player Meg Brown, a freshman, was named the West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Feb. 22 and redshirt senior men’s volleyball player Austin Wilmot was selected the Mountain Sports Federation Defensive Player of the Week on the same day.
The players, both middle blockers, earned the accolades due to the block parties they held in a pair of their squads’ games the prior week.
Brown tallied 15 blocks, including two solo rejections in her team’s two home wins over the Pacific Tigers on Feb. 16 and 17. Wilmot had 14 blocks in Pepperdine’s two wins over Stanford on Feb. 18 and 20 in Palo Alto.
The 6-foot-3 Brown had eight blocks in the Waves’ first victory over the Tigers and seven in the following match. She was excited about being named the WCC’s top defender of the week.
“Blocking, for me, has always been something I’ve had to really work on,” she said. “I’ve been working on it the past few months to really nail it down, so it’s really nice to see my hard work pay off.”
Wilmot, who stands 6-foot-10, won the Big West Defensive Player of the Week honor in 2018 while playing for UC Irvine. The 2020 All-MPSF first teamer and honorable mention all-American said he got off to a slow start this season, so winning the weekly defensive honor gave him a good feeling. Wilmot said Waves coach David Hunt challenged him to improve his blocking before the team faced Stanford.
“Those two games I went off on blocking,” Wilmot, 22, said. “I always try to go out and put my hands in the right position to get as many blocks as I can. I’m lengthy and use my athleticism a lot. I can get places pretty quick—one step for me is like two steps for someone else.”
The women’s team downed Pacific, 3-1, in the first contest and 3-2 in the second. In those games, Brown recorded 22 kills on 48 swings for a .354 success rate. She also had two digs and an assist, totaling 30.5 points. Wilmot averaged 2.29 kills, 0.71 digs, and 2.00 blocks per set in the Waves three set and four set beatings of Stanford.
Wilmot was also named Off the Block’s National Middle Blocker of the Week last week.
“This is definitely the best stretch of block and attacking I’ve had this year,” he said. “I think last year I had some pretty good stretches against Stanford; against Concordia I did well also. But for a two-game stretch, this is the best I have played this season.”
Wilmot, a volleyball player since ninth grade, who sprouted from 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-9 the summer before his 11th grade year, said keys to being a standout defensive player include being able to read what plays the opposition is attempting to run, making the quickest defensive move possible and getting your hands in the right position to make a block.
“Defense is something we stress in our gym a lot,” he said. “It’s pretty sick that we have a super well-rounded defense on the front and back row.”
Brown said knowing Pacific’s offensive scheme helped her be successful on defense.
“Being able to read their setter super well and getting in front of their hitters quickly and pressing,” she said. “That made it a lot easier for me to go get balls.”
The first-year Pepperdine player, who was more of an offensive player during her high school career at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, said her stout defense against Pacific was one of her better career performances.
“It was a build up from the first few weeks of the season,” Brown said. “To be able to get it down was really cool.”
Brown and Wilmot aren’t the only members of the successful squads who have collected honors so far this season. Brown’s teammate, junior outside hitter Rachel Ahrens, has collected two offensive recognitions and junior libero Madison Shields, another Waves women’s team member, has received an offensive honor. Two other men’s volleyball players have been tapped for recognition as well—freshman libero Trey Cole for defense and senior outside hitter Spencer Wickens for offense.
Heading into their Friday matchup against Gonzaga, the women’s volleyball squad had a 7-2 record. The Waves were downed by sixth ranked Baylor in five sets the last day of February. Brown had 11 kills, three digs and one block in the contest. She was one of four Waves that had double digit kills. Ahrens led the team with 15, plus one block, and freshman outside hitter Emma Ammerman had 14 kills and three digs.
The Pepperdine men’s team, ranked fifth nationally, had a 6-2 record going into their home contest against Stanford on Wednesday. The Waves defeated USC in three sets for the second time in two days on Feb. 26. Wickens led the way with 10 kills on a career-best .692 hitting percentage and senior outside hitter Noah Dyer recorded nine kills. Wilmot recorded seven kills and four blocks.
Wilmot wants to finish this season as a first or second team All-American and help the Waves battle for a national championship.
“The sky is the limit,” he said. “We want to keep racking up the wins.”
Brown pushes her self each day to be a better volleyball player.
“I want to be the best player I can for my team,” she said. “Our goal is to win the WCC and get a bid to the NCAA Championships. We are working hard every day and excited to play each team and just be gritty and have fun out there.”