Nadav Swarttz might just be the right guy for the Emerson men’s volleyball game.
If you attend a game, you will probably see the powerful right hitter fly in from the right side and spike the ball on the opposition at somepoint during the match.
The transfer from the University of Maryland is leading the Lions with 45 kills, but Swarttz was not always the force he is today.
“The first time I picked up a volleyball was freshman year of high school when we had intramurals. My friends and I, we’d go and have some fun,” said Swarttz, who is studying marketing communication.
Swarttz said he tried out for the freshman team at Newton South High School, and made the cut.
Also playing for Newton at the time was Jeff Ackerstein, now a junior post-production major at Emerson. Ackerstein, who has played opposite Swarttz for the majority of his volleyball career, remembers when Swarttz was still in the learning process.
“He’s made a big improvement. When he first started he was a small kid, and he’d make hits but they weren’t game stoppers,” Ackerstein said.
Swarttz is listed at 5-feet-10 inches on Emerson’s roster. Junior captain Steve Selnick said Swarttz’s size has helped him get a leg up on the competition.
“During his junior year, he started doing a program to increase his vertical leap,” Selnick said. “Once he did that, it all started to click. He started flying in from the right side and teams didn’t know what to do. He was the go-to guy on the right side.”
With Swarttz playing right side hitter and Ackerstein on the outside, Newton South, whose mascot is also a lion, went to the state semifinals.
Ackerstein said Swarttz continued to improve during the 2008-09 season.
Later that year, Sports Illustrated picked Newton South as the top high school athletics program in Massachusetts, according to the magazine’s website.
As a freshman, Swarttz attended the University of Maryland. He played volleyball for Maryland at the club level, but said he found his heart wasn’t in it.
“I played club for them and it was not the same,” Swarttz said. “It just wasn’t for me.”
At Maryland, Swarttz was often sick. He said he suffers from allergies, and the state’s environment did not agree with him.
Realizing he needed a change, Swarttz transferred to Emerson, about a 20 minute drive from Newton.
Ackerstein said he was glad to be back with his teammate from Newton South.
“It was after a year of not being on the court, so I could tell he was a bit rusty at first, but he’s really been a big help to the team and it’s been great playing with him again,” Ackerstein said.
Swarttz said his transition into the college game has been helped by junior captain Steve Selnick.
“[He’s] a great setter,” Swarttz said. “When [our passing] is on, we’re a lot better. Hitting is easy if you have good passing and good sets.”
The chemistry with Selnick has resulted in Swarttz racking 36 kills on the season
“He’s definitely one of the go-to guys for Steve,” said Craig Letourneau, the Lions’ head coach. “Steve loves to send the ball to the right side because [Swarttz] can pound the ball. When he’s blocking, he leaps well and takes away a lot of the court with his hands.”
There are areas where Letourneau said he would like to see improvement in Swarttz’s game. He cited Swarttz’s tendency to hit the ball as hard as he can, even though sometimes he should back off and finesse it a bit more.
This season, Swarttz said one of his goals is to improve his conditioning and stay healthy.
“I never knew volleyball players could run that much,” he said. “I feel like an old man sometimes, limping around and stuff. Volleyball takes a toll on your legs.”
All in all, however, the coach said he is happy with Swarttz’s output.
“Nadav has been great. He has a great personality,” Letourneau said. “He’s very outgoing and very funny. The guys really enjoy having him.”
Evan Sporer, assistant sports editor of the Beacon and member of the Emerson Volleyball team, did not edit this article.