Malibu High School boys volleyball players gearing up for college game

Two Malibu High Sharks boys volleyball players are set to play their sport at the next level.
Seniors Finn Kelly and Nate Mulder will both walk on to college volleyball teams. Kelly will play at The Master’s University in Santa Clarita and Mulder will join the squad at Concordia University Irvine in Orange County.
Kelly is enthusiastic about joining the Mustangs, who compete in the Golden State Athletic Conference.
“I’m super excited to grow and become a better volleyball player throughout college,” he said. “I’m just looking to grow, have fun, make new friends, and enjoy the sport I love playing.”
Mulder acknowledged that joining the Eagles roster will be a heavy task due to the stiff competition the squad takes on each year in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
“I’m pretty excited to go down there and challenge myself to play at my best,” he said. “I’m confident that I’m going to play at Concordia.”
Sharks head coach Derek Saenz, who just finished his fourth season coaching Malibu’s girls and boys volleyball teams, said the two players having the opportunity to play college volleyball is a great thing.
“That is what I came here to do,” he said. “I wanted help players move onto play college volleyball.”
Kelly and Mulder were offered walk-on spots on their future schools’ teams earlier this year. The two will join Grant Hall, who graduated from Malibu in 2021 and played this past season at Santa Monica College, as recent Sharks volleyball players competing in college.
Kelly and Mulder led Malibu to a 12-17 overall record this season, including a 5-1 record in the Citrus Coast League. The Sharks’ season had a stretch where they won four consecutive matches, and won their last two of the regular season. Malibu’s season ended with a 3-0 loss to Calabasas in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV Boys Volleyball playoffs on April 28.
In 2021, Mulder and Kelly helped Malibu win the league title and advance to the quarterfinals of the CIF playoffs for the first time in program history.
Kelly said the success the team had when he was in the 11th grade will always be a fond memory.
“Doing really well when we didn’t know if we were going to have a season because of COVID means a lot to me,” he said. “It was questionable because we didn’t know if our team was going to be good or whether we were going to have a team, but we ended up having a good crew that worked hard toward a goal.”
Mulder described the Sharks as a tight-knit group throughout his three seasons on the roster.
“I had a great time playing with them,” he said.
Mulder and Kelly played youth league sports, including basketball, baseball, and water polo. In fact, Kelly and his volleyball-loving family introduced Mulder to the sport. When Kelly and Mulder were in middle school they began playing volleyball on the grass field at Trancas Canyon Park with other people.
Initially, the two had different mindsets when they joined Malibu’s team, said Saenz. The coach said Kelly was a good athlete that was always willing to learn and give great effort, while Mulder didn’t commit to volleyball and was a late bloomer that eventually made huge strides.
Kelly got his hard-practicing ways from his parents, who also played volleyball.
“My parents drilled it in me to always go at it 100 percent,” he said. “To be committed and to get better.”
Mulder began to take the sport more serious when he sprouted from below 6 feet to 6’4” in height in between his sophomore and junior years.
“I literally grew into the sport,” he said. “The height took a while to get used to. When we began to play after COVID, it was a completely different game for me. The height advantage is very apparent when you play volleyball.”
Mulder began training with standout volleyball coach and trainer Chris Austin as an 11th grader and played club volleyball this year.
Saenz said Mulder’s training got so intense that he was practicing with Austin before the Sharks’ contest. Saenz told Mulder to ease up on the training because he was tired during one of Malibu’s matches.
“He was the first kid who I had to tell not to do private lessons on game days,” Saenz said of Mulder. “He put the time and effort into it and gained a lot of confidence.”
When Kelly was positioned at setter this season, he and Mulder, an outside hitter, had success as a duo.
“Finn is a smart and consistent volleyball player,” he said. “We had a pretty good connection. I felt confident playing with him.”
Kelly enjoys passing the ball, so he is ready to make the expected position switch from outside hitter, the role he played most in high school, to libero, a ball-control focused position, at The Master’s.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “I love playing good volleyball.”
Kelly enjoyed playing high school volleyball with Mulder and said he is going to miss him when they go to college. He hopes to one day see his former teammate across the net.
“Nate has grown so much this past year,” Kelly said. “It has been really fun to watch. He has put in a ton of hours in club volleyball and training. I’m super excited for him to play at Concordia.”
Mulder also envisions facing off with Kelly in a future match.
“It would be so fun to play against him at the next level,” he said. “We’ve played sports together our entire lives, so it would be pretty cool to be able to do that at the college level.”

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