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Pepperdine asks Mayer to hit away

March 29, 2005

There was no sitdown discussion or painstaking preparation for a smooth transition.

Pepperdine senior volleyball player John Mayer (Thousand Oaks) got the hint a position change was in store when he began getting more passing repetitions in practice.

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Mayer made the rare move from setter to opposite hitter this season.

The change, which included a brief preseason stint at libero, is like asking a point guard in basketball to play power forward.

"I don't think it's done too often," said Mayer. "There are definitely some different skills and training required."

Mayer had spent his whole career directing the action on the court as a setter.

But with freshman setter Jonathan Winder arriving at Pepperdine this season, coach Marv Dunphy decided to reshuffle the lineup.

"It was a little disappointing at first, but once I got over that I knew it was a huge challenge ahead of me, and I ate that up," said Mayer. "I wanted to be successful at it, and I still enjoyed playing every day."

During an early preseason trip to Canada, Mayer began his short experiment at libero.

"Luckily we are a spring sport because in the fall I was pretty bad," said Mayer. "Libero is an important position, but I didn't feel as involved in helping the team."

The week before Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play began, Mayer made his final transition to opposite hitter.

Having Dunphy display the trust in Mayer that the switch was possible eased some of Mayer's anxiety.

"He never doubted me," said Mayer, who was named conference Player of the Week in January. "At least he didn't show it if he did. He probably should have at times, but he stuck with me."

Mayer has spent hours before practice squeezing in extra repetitions to improve his passing and hitting skills.

"Hitting and passing are both new to me, so it has been a little slow," said Mayer. "But the good thing about it is I feel I can keep getting better at it, while at setting I had maxed out my potential."

And Mayer realizes there could be worse things than enduring a few frustrating practices.

"I could be watching games from the bench, so I can't complain," said Mayer."Now, I love the position. It's great.

With all the player adjustments on the court, Mayer believes top-ranked Pepperdine is beginning to hit its stride just in time for postseason play.

"All three years we have been No. 1 at one point or another," said Mayer."It doesn't really mean anything right now, but I feel like this is the most cohesive unit we've had. I think we have a chance to keep improving and moving forward, which makes things exciting."