There have been a lot of moving parts around the Stevenson University men’s volleyball program over the past few years.
One thing, however, has been a constant — Landon Shorts.
A 2014 PIAA state champion with the Central York boys’ volleyball team, Shorts has been one of the most prolific members of the Mustangs. He set the school record for aces in a season as a freshman, only to break that mark last year as a sophomore. In addition to the service aces mark, the 6-foot 2-inch outside hitter also set a school-record for kills with 400 last year.
“Hopefully sometime this year I’ll pass the 1,000 mark for my career,” said Shorts, who has 745 career kills to date.
The school-record for kills is 1,511, held by J.R. Jackson. Shorts could break that record as a senior. Shorts has 120 service aces to date, which is already the school record. He broke Jon Martin’s record of 101 last season.
Shorts was named to the 2016 and 2017 All-Continental Volleyball Conference teams. He was named to the 2017 All-East Coast Athletic Conference First Team as well.
While Shorts has been nothing less than stellar so far, there have certainly been some changes around the Owings Mills, Maryland, program. A new coach in former U.S. gold-medal Olympian Aldis Berzins, took over before the start of last season. If that were not enough, the Mustangs are also moving to a new conference, the upstart Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) this season in men’s volleyball.
Feeling good about his team: Despite the changes, Shorts feels good about the Mustangs' team, which also includes two other Central York alums in Jason Gardner and Alex Klunk.
“We literally have all of the key components to be successful,” Shorts said. “Except for maybe the setter position.”
Setting, however, is perhaps the most important position on the court for high-level squads. As it stands right now, the Mustangs have a few options, but none of the three under consideration has really elevated their play to make the decision easy for the coaches.
“We have three prospects,” Shorts said. “We just need to find the one who works the hardest and puts up the most consistent ball.”
The answer to Stevenson’s setting problem may very well determine if the Mustangs are able to return to the NCAA Division III Final Four this spring. Shorts was part of a crew that helped the program advance further than it had ever been as a freshman two years ago.
Joining the MAC: Getting there may be a bit easier with the inaugural season of play in the MAC. Having played in the CVC previously, the move to the MAC made sense for two reasons.
For one, Stevenson was already a member of the MAC in other sports. They’ll be joined in the seven-team league by Alvernia, Arcadia, Messiah, Misericordia, Widener and Wilkes. Eastern University will be added into the fold in 2019 when they begin their program to make it an eight-team conference.
In addition, the new league should be Stevenson’s for the taking this year. Alvernia, Arcadia and Wilkes just began their programs in 2017, with Misercordia, Messiah and Widener starting their programs this season.
“We’re the only school in the league that’s been around,” Shorts said. “Now we don’t exactly know how the competition is going to be but I’m thinking that we should be favored to win. We’ve been around playing men’s volleyball since 1999, while most of the other schools are either in their first or second years.”
Aiming for national title game: While the conference may be a mixed bag, the non-conference schedule is anything but that. The Mustangs will take on some of the best programs in the nation, including perennial power Springfield.
Shorts sounded optimistic that his team will find a way to return to the NCAA playoffs for another run at a title this spring.
“There’s not much more than what we did two years ago,” Shorts said. “We have to get to the national title game or win it.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.