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NCAA MEN'S VOLLEYBALL

Overlooked Stuntz Helps Carry Lewis Into Final

May 03, 2003|Paul McLeod | Times Staff Writer

Ryan Stuntz considered quitting two years ago after his freshman season on the El Camino College men's volleyball team because there didn't seem to be much interest in a 5-foot-10 defensive specialist from four-year schools.

Then a club coach placed the phone call that salvaged Stuntz's career -- and sent him halfway across the country.

Stuntz will be in the starting lineup today for Lewis College when the tiny Romeoville, Ill., school plays heavily favored Brigham Young in the NCAA men's volleyball championship match at 4:30 p.m. at Long Beach State.

Fourth-seeded Lewis, a Division II school in other sports, has had volleyball only 10 years and is making its third appearance in the national tournament and first in a title match. Lewis upset Pepperdine in five games Thursday. Top-seeded Brigham Young beat Penn State in four games in the other semifinal.

Stuntz, a junior, was a two-time team most valuable player at South Torrance High. He anchors the Lewis defense that creates plays for the highest-rated offense in the nation. He had 19 digs and seven set assists in the 30-27, 29-31, 30-27, 25-30, 15-13 upset of Pepperdine. In the fourth game he made one of the top athletic plays of the match. It's known as a "pancake" -- a diving save with the back of his hand of a spike just as the ball was about to hit the floor.

Stuntz was the 2001 defensive player of the year as a freshman at El Camino and he considered attending Long Beach State without a scholarship. But after sending transcripts to the 49ers he didn't receive a bite. The same was true elsewhere.

"No one in California wanted me," he said.

Stuntz has made a home at Lewis. At his current pace, he is expected to set a school record for digs sometime next season.

Lewis Coach Dave Deuser says that Stuntz has played a large part in getting the Flyers into the final, which Deuser said is "huge" for the school's reputation.

It also has opened the door to recruiting other Californians. Before, Deuser concentrated heavily on talent from overseas.

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