Pepperdine Volleyball Off to Sizzling Start

Parker Kalmbach slams another kill for the Waves.

Over the course of more than four decades, the Pepperdine men’s volleyball program has produced five national championships, 10 regular-season conference titles and 48 All-American players. The tradition continues this spring as Pepperdine boasts one of its most talented teams in recent memory. 

Now in his 32nd season at the helm, Coach Marv Dunphy has done a masterful job of putting together perhaps the Waves best team since 2005. With six seniors and one sophomore in the starting lineup, Pepperdine has experience, depth, athleticism and balance on both sides of the net. 

Through the first month of the season, the Waves are off to a 10-1 start (6-1 MPSF), garnering a No. 4 ranking as of Tuesday. Other than a loss to No. 2 USC, Pepperdine has won its 10 matches in convincing fashion. Six victories have come in 3-0 shutouts, and the other four have resulted in four set wins (3-1). 

“What it comes down to is that you can’t play with the big boys unless you can pass with them,” Dunphy said. “A key in the early part of the season is for us to receive serve pretty well, which we have been doing.” 

Two weeks ago at UCLA’s famed Pauley Pavilion, Pepperdine crushed the Bruins, 25-10, 25-20, 25-23 while racking up 12 blocks, 38 kills, 40 digs, plus a whopping .359 hitting percentage. UCLA countered with a line of 4.5/32/26 and a paltry .125 attacking efficiency. 

“We played really well,” Dunphy said. “We were pretty balanced with digs, blocks and kills. It wasn’t lopsided. We did lots of things well. We have a long ways to go but anytime you come in here and beat them it’s good.” 

Pepperdine’s two All-Americans from last year have done a superb job picking up where they left off. Against the Bruins, Matt West recorded 32 assists, six digs and three blocks. Outside hitter Josh Taylor’s stat line included 12 kills, eight digs and five blocks. 

“It’s a dream come true,” said West, one of the nation’s elite setters. “I have five weapons. I’m living the dream. I couldn’t ask for a better team right now.” 

“We’re pushing ourselves every day in practice and getting better at the little things,” Taylor said. “We have really matured as friends and as teammates. Playing together for four years has led to great chemistry on the court. Plus, we have an awesome leader in Marv and a great coaching staff.” 

The outstanding play of middle blocker Parker Kalmbach and defensive specialist Brennan Anderson earned themselves back-to-back MPSF Player of the Weeks. Scott Rhein and Matt Tarantino have evolved into reliable servers. 

As libero, Anderson quarterbacks the third-ranked defense in the NCAA and first-ranked in the MPSF. They average 3.06 blocks per set. 

“A big part of our success has been communication,” Anderson said. “We have been working really hard to be on the same page. At the end of the day, the coaches can only tell us so much. We’re talking a lot to each other and it’s translating to the court.” 

Dunphy is just one of three coaches in any sport to win an NCAA title in four different decades (1978, 1985, 1992 and 2005). He led the Waves to a championship 30 years ago with the famous “Malibu Roofing Company.” This year’s squad resembles that great team, with a tenacious blocking attack led by Taylor, West, Kalmbach, Tarantino, Nikola Antonijevic and Mitchell Penning. 

The Waves last captured a last national championship 10 years ago, but if there’s one team to bring back the glory years, it’s this year’s Pepperdine Waves. “There are a bunch of really good NCAA volleyball teams,” Dunphy said. “We just hope to be one of them.” 

“These guys are not just a team but also a brotherhood, a family. I’ve known many of these guys since I was 14 when we recruited each other to come here,” added West. “We wanted to come here and do big things. We are on the path now.” 

Pepperdine returns to Firestone Fieldhouse on Friday, Feb. 20 to host UC San Diego. The Waves have won 12 consecutive home matches.