The nine seniors of the Arcadia Men’s Volleyball program have been an integral part of putting the Knights on the radar at the national level. Since the program began competing in 2017, the class of 2020 is the first class that has been through four years in the Scarlet and Grey. In 2017, the Knights went 12-18 and did not yet compete in the Middle Atlantic Conference. In only their first year as a program, they faced multiple nationally-ranked opponents, including the No. 1 team in the country, as well as a handful of top 10 teams.
The Knights came out strong in the 2018 season, going 17-13 overall and a dominant 9-3 in their first season in the Middle Atlantic Conference. Their schedule was challenging yet again, and in the second year as a program, made it to the conference championship game at Stevenson. They ultimately lost that game in three straight sets.
The class of 2020 saw the addition of Dan Paraskevov during the 2019 campaign. They recorded an impressive 26-11 overall record, with a 13-1 record in the conference. The Knights defeated nationally-ranked opponents UC Santa Cruz (No. 9), Vassar (No. 10), and Stevenson (No. 3) throughout their challenging schedule. In only their third year as a program, the Scarlet and Grey won the conference championship with a thrilling 3-2 win over Stevenson, who was ranked third nationally at the time. The squad saw their first trip to the NCAA Championship Tournament end at the hands of No. 12 Rivier in the first round.
Arcadia’s 2020 season featured their most challenging schedule yet, as they would meet with nine nationally-ranked teams before beginning conference play. Before the suspension of the season, the Knights sat at 11-10 overall and 3-2 in conference, with highlight wins over No. 8 Lancaster Bible and then-No. 7 Juniata.
“All of these guys came to Arcadia to start a new program,” said Coach Porr. “They came for the University, for academics, and to be trail blazers. That’s what makes these guys so special.”
To his seniors, Porr says: “Thank you for everything. Thank you for believing in me and Arcadia. You came to Arcadia on a vision that I set forth to start a new program. All of you guys have put forth your efforts, hearts, and souls into our seasons and competitions. I thank you for everything you have taught me and the work you put in. You will be amazing in the world leaving Arcadia.”
Austin Braas compared the atmosphere that Arcadia’s athletics department provides to being his second family, saying, “It’s meant a lot, for me they’ve almost been like a second family to me. I’ve gained so many friends that I don’t think I would’ve gotten the chance to meet had I not played a sport.”
“Everyone in the athletics department cares so much about all the teams. You almost have to feel like they’re part of your family,” he added.
“The atmosphere is unique because everybody wants to see each other succeed. No matter what team you’re on, you always want to see Arcadia win. There’s an overwhelming support at all home events, which definitely helps the atmosphere,” said Braas.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that nothing is given to you, everything must be earned. Being a college athlete, everyone is competing for the same thing. That means you have to bring your best every day.”
Braas made history and raised the bar for men’s volleyball players at Arcadia for time to come. He appeared in 113 matches and tallied 898 kills for a career hitting percentage of 40.6%. He added 67 assists and 66 service aces offensively. On defense, Braas totaled 374 blocks and 156 digs. His freshman year, he was named ECAC Division III Rookie of the Year and garnered All-ECAC honors. During his sophomore campaign, Braas earned First Team All-MAC honors, as well as being named to the MAC Honor Roll and ECAC President’s Honor Roll as a Criminal Justice major.
His junior year, Braas was named the program’s first ever American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American, being named to the First Team. He was the NCAA Individual Statistical Champion in hitting percentage for the year, with a 47.4%. He was named First Team All-MAC and was again recognized for his academics, being named to both the Academic All-MAC squad and the MAC Honor Roll.
“I hope to have left a legacy of someone who was one of the hardest working guys on the court,” said Braas. “I hope people remember me for that, but also as someone who was a great leader and mentor to the freshman. It was my goal every day to have some interaction with each freshman, either on the court or off, just so that they knew I was there for them.”
To his teammates and the men’s volleyball program, Braas said, “Thank you for helping me mold into the athlete and person I am today. Without you pushing me every day, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the things I have. You’ve been with me through the ups and downs and have never given up on me. Thank you for making me want to be better. When your teammates are doing the most for you, it only makes you want to be better.”
“Play every game like it’s your last and don’t take this sport for granted. There’s a reason we all want to play in college. In order to do that, you have to bring your best every day. There are no days off – when you’re slacking, other teams are getting better.”
The Lititz, Pennsylvania native admitted that the pandemic changed his perspective on the sport. He said, “It’s made me realize that, at any moment, it can all end. Nobody expected their seasons to end how they did. I don’t think we realized how much we would miss our sport until it was taken away from us.”
“To my coaches, I would say thanks for giving me a chance to play at this level. They took a chance on a kid who only had two years of volleyball under his belt, not knowing what they would get into. I also want to thank them for making me the player I am today. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. The most important thing they’ve done for me is mentor me throughout college. They’ve given me advice and have always been there if I needed to talk about any issues. I am forever grateful.”
Senior Jason Manley was another impact player on the court for the Knights. Over the last four years, he appeared in 101 matches and tallied 970 kills. A Biology/Pre-Engineering major, he totaled 119 service aces and 34 assists offensively, while adding 467 digs and 190 blocks on defense.
During his freshman season, Manley was named All-ECAC Division III South Honorable Mention. His sophomore year, he garnered All-MAC First-Team honors, and his junior year, he was named Second Team All-MAC on the way to capturing the program’s first MAC championship.
Zayne George was a steady and consistent part of the Knights’ defense, and was a leader within the program. Head Coach Eli Porr said, “Zayne has been our starting libero since he stepped foot on campus as a freshman. He has gotten stronger and more disciplined, and he has become a team leader as an upperclassman. Zayne is respected by his teammates and always brings composure to the team.”
George appeared in 111 matches for the Scarlet and Grey during his career. The defensive specialist totaled 582 digs, 104 assists, four kills and two service aces during his career. He is finishing out his senior year as a Biology major on the Pre-Physical Therapy track.
Jarod Pichler, a York, Pennsylvania native, had to overcome injuries before he stepped foot in Glenside. Coach Porr said, “Jarod has evolved and become the player we knew he could when we recruited him. Jarod had torn his ACL and MCL before coming to Arcadia, and he had to work harder than everyone else just to get back to normal when he arrived on campus. Since then, he has been diligent, focused, and locked in on any goal that he has his eyes on. Jarod is a class act and has given his all to the volleyball program.”
Pichler played in 112 matches during his career, totaling 359 kills, 50 service aces, and 41 assists offensively. He added 452 digs and 53 blocks on the defensive side. A Computer Science major, both his sophomore and junior years he was named to the MAC Honor Roll.
Dan Paraskevov joined the men’s volleyball program during the 2019 season and made an immediate impact. During his junior campaign, he was named MAC Rookie of the Year and garnered a place on the All-MAC Honorable Mention list before helping the Knights to their first MAC championship and NCAA Championship tournament appearance.
When asked about what Arcadia has meant to him, Paraskevov said, “It’s an encouraging group of athletes that pushed me to be a better version of myself on and off the court. It’s a unique atmosphere because everyone wants to get better. Strength and conditioning really helps that culture, too.”
Paraskevov, a Feasterville, Pennsylvania native, appeared in 42 matches over the past two seasons and tallied 249 kills, 153 digs, 62 blocks, 18 service aces, and 14 assists.
The biggest lesson he learned over the past two years?
“Never point fingers. Be humble. Play your roll.”
He said, “Play every game like it’s your last, and never forget why you play the sport. Don’t take practices and matches for granted, even if you don’t feel like playing. Cherish each moment. I’m gonna miss it – I didn’t get to say goodbye and cherish my final moments with the team.”
When asked what he wants to leave behind, Paraskevov said, “Bring your skills, your pride, your energy and who you are to the court, ball out, and grow stronger and closer to the sport you love.”
Robie Moctezuma had the power to swing the momentum of an entire game with a single kill or block. He always found a way to fire up his teammates and the crowd in Alumni Gymnasium.
Moctezuma, from Silver Spring, Maryland, appeared in 113 matches for the Knights over his four years here, tallying 514 kills, 332 blocks, 68 digs, 21 service aces, and 13 assists. A Business Administration major, Moctezuma was named to the Academic All-MAC team his junior year, as well as being named to the MAC Honor Roll.
Aaron Knotts appeared in 65 matches for the Knights as a libero and defensive specialist. He totaled 133 digs, 14 assists, 10 service aces, and two kills during his time in the Scarlet and Grey. During his junior season, the Computer Science major was named to the MAC Honor Roll.
When asked about Evan Misal, Coach Porr said, “Evan has played a key role in Arcadia’s success over the last four years. Evan is the guy that can do anything. He is our utility player. Every team has a roster spot reserved for a player like Ev. He can hit, pass, play defense, serve, and also set when we needed him to. He also is a team guy; he has always put the team before himself. That is also why he has earned the sportsmanship award from the MAC the last three years in a row. Evan’s smile and positive energy will be greatly missed in our gym.”
Misal, a Chambersburg, Pennsylvania native, appeared in 90 matches during his career, totaling 107 digs, 73 kills, 39 service aces, 11 blocks, and five assists. During his sophomore season, he was named to both the MAC Honor Roll and the ECAC President’s Honor Roll. His junior year, the Business Administration major was named to the MAC Honor Roll.
Senior Angelo Giuffrida summed up the atmosphere of Arcadia Athletics in one word: family.
“From the staff on campus to the other athletes and your teammates, you become a family here. It’s meant a lot to me the past few years,” said Giuffrida.
“That family atmosphere comes from the accountability that everyone holds you to – the campus is full of winners, and we demand greatness.”
When asked about the legacy he hopes to leave behind, he said, “I hope I instilled a work ethic in that weight room. You don’t have to be the most talented player, but you need the drive and work ethic to push through all that. Time in the gym can give you that extra edge you need. We all need Iron Knights.”
Prior to his senior year, the Boerne, Texas native appeared in 52 matches, tallying 27 kills, 11 service aces and seven assists. Defensively, he had 46 digs and 28 blocks. During the suspended 2020 season, Giuffrida appeared in five matches for the Knights. Over the course of his career, he has performed in the weight room; he received the Arcadia Male Strength & Conditioning Award during his sophomore year, and as a senior in 2020, he was recognized as a National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) All-American Athlete for his accomplishments and dedication in the weight room.
When asked if he could step on the court one more time, what he would change, Giuffrida responded, “Absolutely nothing, we went out with a come from behind victory. That game to me defined our season. We had really high times, and the season of what could have been, but we’ll never know. That last game rode the low wave, we should have played cleaner, but ultimately we came out on top.”
“To my teammates, you guys mean the world to me. I will forever have your back. From on the court shenanigans, we’ve build a friendship forever, you guys are my brothers for life. My accomplishments are yours, and we are champions together,” he said.
“To my coaches, thank you for everything. You all had a part in who I am and who I can be as a player. You all hold a special place in my heart.”
“These guys are amazing. I started the men’s volleyball program four years ago. The class of 2020 are the first guys I recruited and now are seniors – I love these guys,” remarked Porr.
“I want to thank my seniors that were a part of the first recruiting class for Arcadia University Men’s Volleyball – Austin Braas, Evan Misal, Aaron Knotts, Jason Manley, Rob Moctezuma, Angelo Giuffrida, Jarod Pichler and Zayne George,” Porr said.
When asked about what Arcadia would miss about the class of 2020, Porr said, “The unknown. All the winter and spring teams were going to excel and have huge seasons. The banners in the gym, the smiles on the seniors’ faces and celebrating them in their senior night. The class of 2020 was very special and very talented. There will be a gap in time forever with this year all across the world. It will always be looked back as the year of the coronavirus – the year of woulda, coulda, and maybe.”