Scott Livesay thought he was done with volleyball.
A lifelong love had seemed to turn on him. Between nagging injuries, limited opportunities and transfer issues, the last few years of the Golden Valley grad’s career were turning into an ugly divorce.
That’s when UC Merced men’s volleyball coach David Noble entered the fray with one final opportunity to help build a program. Even that wasn’t as easy as it seemed. A good portion of the junior setter’s units weren’t accepted by UCM, forcing Livesay into some repeat schooling.
A year and a half later, he finally got to attend his first class on Tuesday. With his love for the game rekindled, Livesay will lead the Bobcats (0-3) against defending NAIA national champion and No. 1 Concordia (6-3) in their first intercollegiate home match tonight. The first serve is set for 7 p.m. at Hostetler Court.
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“I was pretty burned out on volleyball,” Livesay said. “The game had been pretty cruel to me the last few years. I was ready to just finish up school and move on to the next thing in my life.
“Coach Noble came to me and said they were starting a program back home and that they could get me in to the school. Twice we thought it was done, just to find out they needed something else. After the second time I just figured it wasn’t meant to be, but coach Noble told me I just had to wait until the second semester.
“It had been so long, I figured I could do that.”
The late admittance to the school left Livesay, who had already been away from the competitive game for a couple years, playing catchup. He could only participate in a handful of practices before UC Merced made its intercollegiate debut at Hope International on Jan. 10.
“There’s been a lot of learning in our first three games,” Livesay said. “Setting is all about chemistry. Every single hitter wants the ball delivered a different way. Coming in late, I obviously lost the opportunity to develop those relationships with my hitters. We’re just getting to know each other as fast as we can.”
Noble said Livesay’s athleticism and volleyball IQ have compensated for the lack of familiarity.
“He’s an incredible player now, and he’s just getting back into it,” Noble said. “You’re talking about a kid who is probably smarter than everyone else out on the court, but is also incredibly athletic. At 6-feet, he can do a 360 jam.
“Once he gets his legs back, you’re going to see some special things.”
Livesay is part of a seven-man recruiting class that Noble has blended with seven members of his club team. The coach added an abundance of size in his first class, with five of his freshmen 6-foot-3 or taller. Opposite hitter Daniel Sabzehzar and middle blocker Samuel Hala’ufia lead the group, both at 6-foot-6.
The Bobcats have yet to win a set in their first three matches, but Sabzehzar said it’s all about the little victories this first season.
“Most of us freshmen have played club at the highest level, so hopefully the game will come a little quicker to us,” Sabzehzar said. “We know we won’t be a winning program and playing for a national title right away. We’re just focused on getting a little better every time out.
“The first match, we were just trying to keep the score respectable. The next one, we were just trying to take a set. Not a lot of people north of Madera have probably seen men’s volleyball, so this is an opportunity to introduce some people to the sport and try and get the school’s name out there.”