When he was a youth volleyball player in the Midwest, David Wieczorek dreamed of being an impact player on the Pepperdine Waves men’s volleyball team. Wieczorek, who followed his dad Al’s footsteps in the sport, heard stories about Marv Dunphy, Pepperdine’s legendary coach who retired in 2017, and Olympian and former Waves volleyball player Sean Rooney.
“I idolized those guys,” said Wieczorek, a redshirt senior for Pepperdine. “Ever since seventh grade, I wanted to come here and make an impact.”
The 6-foot-8 player is making a big impact for the Waves, currently the fourth-ranked college volleyball squad in the nation, and has done so throughout his college career. Wieczorek, 23, has racked up a litany of kills and aces that have put him in the Pepperdine volleyball record books and garnered him accolades in acknowledgment of this stellar player.
The Chicago native won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation/Molten Offensive Player of the Week Award on Feb. 11 due to his play in Pepperdine’s three-set sweeps over highly ranked BYU and Stanford. He had 14 kills on 19 errorless swings against Stanford, while setting a career best .737 hitting percentage. Wieczorek had a .435 hitting percentage against BYU.
His play also gleaned him the Sports Imports/American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I-II National Player of the Week award for the second time in his career.
Wieczorek also recorded his 1,000th career kill and 100th career service ace in February.
The two-time All-American said the achievements, which place him in the Waves’ record book, are a dream realized.
“To be able to do that is amazing,” Wieczorek said. “When I get another kill, I think, ‘Is this kill going to help us win?’ I am more so thinking about the matches. I’m not really a record book kind of guy. I’m focused on how we can win and how I can help my team.”
Wieczorek’s every strike of the ball was important in Pepperdine’s latest match, a 3-1 comeback victory over MPSF-opponent Concordia-Irvine. Wieczorek recorded 22 kills, a .400 hitting percentage, two aces, three digs and five blocks in the Feb. 22 win.
Additionally, Pepperdine 6-foot-6 junior outside hitter Michael Wexter had 24 kills on a .452 hitting percentage and 10 digs, 6-foot-4 junior outside hitter Kaleb Denmark had 13 kills and 12 digs and setter Robert Mullahey, a 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman, posted 55 assists and eight digs.
The Waves lost the first set to Concordia 23-25, but won the next three sets, 25-16, 29-27 and 25-22.
Wieczorek, who finished the match with 1,087 career kills and 117 career aces, said his team’s rally over Concordia revealed Pepperdine must be ready to face every opponent in the seven-team MPSF.
“That team, even though they aren’t ranked, is a good team and capable of playing good volleyball,” he said. “For them to challenge us like they did? We responded really well. We never feel we are out of a fight.”
The win pushed Pepperdine’s overall record to 11-2 and 4-0 in the MPSF heading into their Wednesday night game at UCLA. The group plays at USC on Saturday at 7 p.m. Pepperdine has a five-game winning streak.
Wiezorek said the Waves are playing great volleyball right now.
“We are competing hard and are vibing together,” he said.
Pepperdine’s other victories include triumphs over Princeton, UC San Diego, Lewis, CSUN and Grand Canyon. The team has also downed UC Santa Barbara twice. The Waves’ only losses have been to Loyola-Chicago and UC Irvine.
Wieczorek said due to the heavy senior presence on the roster, Pepperdine is a more ripened team this season than past years. He said last season, Pepperdine was down, 2-0, to Grand Canyon but couldn’t battle back and ended up losing, 3-0.
“This year, they gave us a fight and we responded really well,” Wieczorek said. “We are a mature team and no matter what the other team is doing we play our game and don’t let anyone rattle us.”
The player added that the team’s growth also stems from head coach David Hunt, who has harped on the Waves to play hard even when they might not be playing their best volleyball. The coach has also focused on the mental aspect of the sport.
“In between sets, he will say, ‘Hey, they are playing well,’” Wieczorek recalled Hunt saying of an opponent. “It’s a good test for us on how to respond. Even in matches we are learning.”
In an interview before the season started, Hunt said the Waves were always ready to compete “especially with it being a senior laden team,” he said, “they are hungry to get out there. They want to make the most of their time and know they gave it their all.”
For Wieczorek, a second team AVCA All-American in 2018 and honorable mention AVCA All-American the year before, career honors include Volleyball Magazine All-American first team, MPSF Player of the Year, All-MPSF first team (twice), All-MPSF second team, Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Fan Choice National Player of the Year (thrice) and multiple MPSF Offensive Player of the Week recognitions.
He played on USA Volleyball teams the past two summers. The volleyballer said playing with national team players improved his game and confidence.
“I talk about maturity with our team, but they take it a step further and demand perfection,” Wieczorek said of USA Volleyball.
Wieczorek said Pepperdine’s expectations of excellence are like the volleyball national team’s drive for wins.
“We are going to be challenged each night by good teams,” he said. “We are going to take it day-by-day. Hopefully, that will get us to our end goal of a NCAA championship.”
Before the season began, Hunt said the Waves’ schedule is full of difficult opponents that should prepare Pepperdine to make a championship run.
“Our goal is to be playing our best volleyball at the end of the season,” he said.
Editor's note: David Wieczorek's name was misspelled in the print version of this article.