Stadick Shock: A Glimpse into the First Year of UCI’s Towering Middle Blocker

April 20, 2017. Walter Pyramid—Long Beach, Calif. Set two of the MPSF semifinals, UCI up 1-0.

Volleyball is a game of runs. With a good dig and a couple of solid serves and kills, a match can swing either way. In the purest form of sport, momentum has no bias and takes no sides. For the ‘Eaters, this is the case at the start of the second set when they are already up 1-0.

Senior setter Michael Saeta gets right under the ball that Long Beach has just returned. Bending his knees and readying his arms in “L” shapes, his palms up, he has a snap of a second to quickly determine where the attack should come from. Having already completed 980 set assists so far this year, he is exactly the man the ‘Eaters want in this position. Two of the ‘Eaters’ designated power hitters flank Saeta’s left and right sides respectively. But gauging Long Beach’s defense, Saeta sees a crack in the opposition’s coverage straight down the middle. Stadick, who stands just a few paces behind him, has the clear shot. Saeta tips the ball behind his head and waits for the claps. Clap. Clap. UCI up, 2-0.  

Stadick isn’t one to take a lot of swings, but when he does, he does so with ease. There is, of course, a sizeable advantage that Stadick possesses. With a crane of an arm that appears to keep going and going, Stadick only needs to lift it, arcing his hands and fingertips down at the apex of his reach, producing a curvature that points directly to the kill zone: straight for the ground. Standing seven feet, there is no need for him to display the same bounce as his teammates. Without a close inspection, it almost appears as though he is tippy-toeing when he blocks or strikes. A giant who fortifies the middle ground, he dares his attackers to try to go head to head with him. He already won these one-on-one battles on a number of occasions with 23 solo blocks on the year and 116 rejections in all, including those he denied with teammates.

Apart from his height, Stadick looks like an unassuming college student. He wears his hair with short moppy bangs that swoop over his forehead. His high cheekbones are slim, marks of his maturing frame; so too are his arms and legs, marks of the muscular maturing and filling out that he teases himself about.

Off the court, he bikes around campus behind frameless square glasses and occasionally goes for Starbucks Coffee runs with friends, more for the social gathering than the caffeine. In family and team photos, he squints and offers the same modest and shy smile.

Growing up in a city of some 23,900 residents in Watertown, Stadick felt he was the only young competitive volleyball player in existence. There were simply not a lot of people outside of his immediate family that enjoyed volleyball. The only time he ever played the sport was when he leisurely smacked the ball around in his backyard with his older siblings. A string tied between two poles helped form the perfect makeshift net.  

Since there was no boys’ volleyball team at his high school, his first formal introduction to the sport came when he, at age 11, joined the 12 and under (12U) River City girls’ volleyball club. He recalls saying a total of four words during the whole experience. Despite his shyness, Stadick couldn’t get enough of the sport and took every opportunity he could to play competitively. His parents made the two to three hour trip to Milwaukee everyday so he could join and practice with organized boys’ club volleyball teams.

During this time, Stadick developed the discipline to spend hours in the gym, practicing and honing in on his skills. It didn’t hurt that he had the genes too. His parents, Bill and Jill Stadick, were both over six feet tall. They met at Wheaton College, where Jill played on Wheaton’s volleyball team and Bill played for a club on campus. All three of Stadick’s older siblings—his eldest sister, Debbie, his brother, Rob, and his youngest sister, Katie — were middle blockers who played in college.

Over time, Stadick looked for better competition and found it in 2010 through his involvement with the Boys Youth National Team, which he is still a member. Competing at the 2014 NORCECA Continental Championships, Scott helped the Boys Youth National Team in his age group take home gold. The following year, his team placed seventh at the 2015 FIVB Boys’ U19 World Championship in Argentina. Scott was named Best Blocker in both those years. In 2016, Scott returned to the NORCECA Continental Championships and struck gold once more, this time, in the Under-21 division. With the victory, his team qualified for the 2017 FIVB Boys’ U21 World Championships that will take place later this year.

Given his soft-spoken and laid back attitude, a reflection of his upbringing in a tranquil Wisconsin community and his seemingly perfect pairing with the Irvine-Newport Beach surfer vibe, Stadick shrugs off the fact that he was tabbed the nation’s most sought after middle blocker by Volleyball Magazine. There was no denying, however, that Scott knew only how to win on superb teams from an early age. With his triumphs, Stadick’s modus operandi, his MO, was perfectly aligned with that of UC Irvine, a successful program that had won four national championships in a span of seven years. Both had tasted what it was like to win and win dominantly. The match between the two could not have been more perfect. He was exactly the type of player who could help them return to form after an abysmal 2015-2016 campaign.

The 2016-2017 season did not exactly shape out the way the ‘Eaters had envisioned it.

While Stadick was named Freshman of the Year for his efforts on protecting the ‘Eaters’ side of the net and many of his teammates also received individual nods as well, the team failed to realize their collective goal.

After witnessing a roller coaster of a year, the program managed to make it into the MPSF postseason against Long Beach State but would go no further, ending the night with a 3-0 sweep.

However, UCI has been something of a revelation this year. Entering the season ranked sixth in the nation, the ‘Eaters have quickly risen to fourth after sweeping BYU early on in the year. They currently possess a 10-4 overall standing and are set to turn heads at the start of the inaugural Big West conference play.

While last year was an excellent showing for Stadick, the seven-foot middle blocker has become an even more explosive force in his sophomore year, already earning a Big West Defensive Player of the Week nod and leading the conference—second in the nation—with 1.31 blocks a night.