Pepperdine men’s volleyball takes aim at NCAA bid

Marv Dunphy has seen his share of five-set matches during the course of his 30 years as head coach of the Pepperdine University men’s volleyball program.

“I don’t mind five-game matches as long as we win them,” Dunphy said after the Waves came from behind to defeat No. 10 Cal State Northridge (CSUN) last week 22-25, 25-23, 17-25, 25-18, 15-11.

While Dunphy felt exhilarated after the CSUN match, he experienced heartache two days later. After recognizing seniors Maurice Torres, James Powers and Beau Vandeweghe prior to the match on Senior Night, Pepperdine lost to No. 2 Long Beach State 20-25, 21-25, 25-14, 25-22, 15-11, squandering a two-sets-tonone lead.

Pepperdine (13-10) completed the home portion of its schedule by going 10-2 at Firestone Fieldhouse. The Waves conclude their regular season on Friday at UC Santa Barbara before participating in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) tournament beginning April 20.

“We are just ready to battle and we want to take it all the way. We want to win this thing,” Torres said. “We want to play our hearts out, play for Marv and play for our team. It’s about playing with our hearts now and not thinking too much.”

Pepperdine, ranked No. 5 in the country and in fifth place in the MPSF standings, has had its share of ups and downs throughout the season. They upset the No.1 team in the country, Brigham Young University, back on Feb. 15 and notched victories over Stanford and UC Irvine when both teams were ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time.

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But prior to the CSUN match, the Waves had lost three in a row after winning seven of nine matches. While the victory against the Matadors would appear to be big in the win column, Dunphy keeps a very simplistic approach to each match during the season.

“I used to say your most important match is your next match. And that was actually looking too far ahead. I go one practice at a time,” said Dunphy, who has a career record of 545-239. “The key is continuous improvement. We just have to focus on the process and not be tied to the outcomes and results. I don’t want paralysis by analysis. I just want to keep it simple.”

Torres played two of his best matches of the season in his final appearances on campus. The 6-foot-7 opposite hitter connected on 28 kills vs. CSUN, equaling a career high and slamming down 20 more kills against Long Beach State.

An automatic berth into the NCAA Championships can be obtained by winning the MPSF tournament. According to Torres, the best could be ahead if the Waves play to their potential.

“I don’t see why not. We have some of the best athletes in the country. When we play at the top of our game, we are hard to beat,” said Torres, who ranks sixth all-time in career kills for Pepperdine and seventh in service aces. “There are a lot of great teams out there in the MPSF. If we come out and we play hard and play like we have nothing to lose, then I think we have a pretty good chance of doing really well.”

A starter since he stepped on campus as a freshman, Torres has been the face of Pepperdine men’s volleyball the last couple of years. He was named an American Volleyball Coaches Association secondteam All-American and an All-MPSF first team selection in 2012. He is one of only seven Waves all-time to ever record 1,300 kills and 500 digs in a career. Torres currently leads the NCAA with 5.01 points per set.

While the accolades are significant, simply playing for Pepperdine has fulfilled Torres’ career.

“This has meant the world to me. Coming here as a freshman and being under Marv has been a blessing in itself. To play four years under Marv is something a select few can actually say they’ve done,” Torres said. “It’s so special to me. Pepperdine will always have a place in my heart. It’s one of these places that you can’t forget. This is my second family and I care about them all so much.”

Dunphy has coached some of the game’s greatest collegiate players, such as National Player of the Years Bob Ctvrtlik (1985), George Roumain (1998, 1999), Brad Keenan (2002, 2003), Sean Rooney (2005), Jonathan Winder (2007) and Paul Carroll (2009).

Torres has had an outstanding career for the Waves and one that Dunphy has admired.

“Maurice has carried a big load since day one. He came in and replaced Paul Carroll,” Dunphy said. “He’s a good kid and it’s been four great years with him. I think he has the ability to play at the next level, whether it is in the United States or abroad.”

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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