When Arroyo Grande High School boys volleyball coach Laurel Allen lost six seniors to graduation, she wondered who would step into a leadership role last summer.
So she hung back and waited. She didn’t have to wait long, as senior Ryan Meffert emerged in more ways than one.
The third-year varsity player embraced many new roles this past season, including becoming an outside hitter for the first time — after being a defensive specialist his first two years — in addition to being named a co-captain. He averaged a little more than 12 kills a game in his first year at the outside hitter position, leading the Eagles to a 21-4-3 record and a perfect 12-0 PAC 8 league season. Meffert also rarely left the court, playing all the way around, meaning his duties extended to passing and serving.
For his stellar play, Meffert has been named The Tribune 2016 County Boys Volleyball Player of the Year.
Meffert was born and raised until the age of 7 in Germany, then spent a year in Spain before moving to Arroyo Grande. Meffert began playing volleyball in middle school and kept playing because of a family friend, Taylor Jenisch, who also played volleyball at Arroyo Grande and stayed with Meffert’s family for a year. Meffert attended all of Jenisch’s games at Arroyo Grande in 2012, keeping him interested in the sport. Meffert entered high school standing just 4-foot-11 and yet made the junior varsity team as a defensive specialist and setter.
He kept improving and moved up to varsity the following year, only a little taller. Meffert thought he was going to always stay small until after his sophomore year, when he grew to his current 6-1 height.
He felt accomplished enough going into his senior season to take on the captaincy and a new position, both of which he excelled at.
“It was a huge switch, everyone always knew me as the small guy,” Meffert said of his change to the new position.
“With the transition, my goal was to be the leading scorer, the captain of the team and a role model for the other guys,” he added. “It was my senior year, I kind of figured everything out, and I worked my butt off to gain everyone’s respect and get my hitting ability up because that was all new.”
Allen said a big part of Meffert’s leadership was his selflessness.
“It showed in his game as he thrived off the competitive energy and friendships of his teammates,” Allen said, adding that if the team was playing in a game where they could make subs, he would be the first to offer to be taken out.
In practice, the player who was last running “suicides” would have to run again. Meffert made sure the player didn’t run alone.
“It was never about ‘I,’ ” Allen said. “If the team is having fun, then it will be that much more fun for him. He was the glue that kept this team together. (Assistant coaches) Matt Lipson, Marc Rodriguez and myself all admired his work ethic.”
Meffert, who speaks fluent German, would start matches yelling, “3, 2, 1, AG” in German for intimidation.
“This year, it was a big team effort. We all had our inside jokes and really bonded, which was really nice,” Meffert said. “The whole team looked out for each other.”
The team all bought straw hats and wore Hawaiian shirts as a way to express their togetherness. Allen said it will now be a tradition for teams to decide which hats the team will wear in the future.
Meffert got his first taste of hitting his junior year, when he subbed in for a player who didn’t have their jersey. He decided it was more fun racking up kills than digs.
His competition with his fellow hitters on the team also spurred Meffert to greater heights. He would have hitting “duels” with good friend Evan Lalanne, as well as with Jackson Tourdot and Brett MacDonald.
“We always had that (competition),” Meffert said. “It wasn’t like we we would get mad at each other, but you knew there was a competition there. During practices it made us work a lot harder.”
You have to look no further than his pregame rituals to understand Meffert’s German roots are important to him. He recently toured Europe for three weeks this summer with his best friend and spent a week with extended family that he doesn’t often get to see. He returned a few days before he will start a summer program majoring in industrial technology at Cal Poly, which he chose over UC Berkeley and San Diego State. He hopes to play club volleyball for the school but knows what’s in store if he wants to make the team.