An abbreviated season was still rewarding for a pair of local boys volleyball players.

Michael Wright (Deep Run) and Cole Schlothauer (Lee-Davis) were named to the 2020 Off the Block Freshman All-American Team. Wright plays at Ohio State and Schlothauer at Loyola University Chicago.

A voting committee of 21 men’s volleyball coaches and volleyball media members selected 10 players, all freshmen or redshirt freshmen, to the annual team.

“I was a little shocked because by the numbers I was the second setter out of our conference,” Wright said. “I was like, wow, I made the team.”

“I was proud of myself,” Schlothauer said. “A lot of hard work, I redshirted last year and had been waiting to get my shot at it, and I was proud of myself for all the hard work that paid off, or at least someone recognized it at the end of the year.”

It wasn’t the only honor Schlothauer, an outside hitter, picked up. He was an honorable-mention choice for the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America team, the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association newcomer of the year and a first-unit selection for the all-MIVA team.

Before his season was curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, he registered 254 kills, 110 digs, 24 blocks and 22 service aces. His 254 kills were the most by a Loyola freshman since 2013.

Schlothauer said the best part of his freshman year was the immediate sense of family the guys shared on the team.

Throughout Schlothauer’s first season with the Ramblers, he has learned different ways to kill volleyballs and how to push through when things got tough. Most importantly, he learned how to become the best teammate he can be.

“In high school and in club, I was always focused on how I was doing and my own accolades — my goal was getting to college,” he said. “Now that I’m at this level, I need to focus more on all my teammates and how I can make everyone else around me better.”

For Wright, a true freshman setter, he learned how to transition from the high school level to major-college competition.

“I feel like I was more of an athlete playing in the Richmond area, as opposed to fundamentals,” Wright said. “So it was pretty hard putting everything aside that I already knew, and starting from the basics and learning the fundamentals.”

Wright started in 15 of 18 matches in his rookie season for the Buckeyes and registered 28 blocks, 10 kills and six aces. He recorded three double-doubles with 10 or more digs to his assist totals and had a season-high 49 assists.

Wright was named MIVA academic all-conference and an OSU Scholar-Athlete, as well as being named the national freshman of the week by Off the Block in early February.

He said the best part of his freshman year was winning big games against conference rivals.

“Beating Penn State twice, that was definitely the biggest highlight,” he said.

Both players are excited about the future and looking forward to playing again after the hiatus.

“Next year definitely finishing what we couldn’t finish this year due to [COVID-19], that’s the goal,” Wright said. “We had a first-year head coach, so we had a lot going for us this year.”

“I think we will be really good next year,” Schlothauer said. “I’m looking forward to hopefully taking the conference and making a deep run into the NCAA tournament next year.”

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