Perhaps the area’s most sought after boys’ volleyball player yet to make a college commitment came off the market on Thursday.
Dayne Chalmers, an incoming senior at Newport Harbor High, declared his intention to join the UC Santa Barbara men’s volleyball program.
“I’m very excited,” Chalmers said of committing to the Gauchos. “It’s a giant relief for me to finally know where I’m going to be going.”
Last season offered its own brand of excitement with the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title match featuring Corona del Mar versus Newport Harbor in a high-stakes Battle of the Bay.
The Gauchos have accrued a fine collection of assets from that championship match, as recent CdM graduates Patrick Paragas (setter) and Brandon Hicks (middle blocker) have signed with UCSB.
“They’re very good,” Chalmers said of last year’s recruiting class for the Gauchos. “I think the future is looking very good for UCSB, and I’m glad I get to be a part of it.”
Chalmers had narrowed his decision down to UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego. He said that he visited both schools.
When he visited UCSB, Chalmers said he spoke with head coach Rick McLaughlin and assistant coach Cullen Irons. They did not address playing time, but their expectations of their student-athletes were a topic of conversation.
“They made it clear that they expected a hard work ethic, and they just told me to be ready for that college-level experience and to be motivated,” Chalmers said.
Newport Harbor boys’ volleyball coach Rocky Ciarelli is Chalmers’ uncle. He has no concerns about Chalmers’ work ethic, referencing his all-around athleticism.
During his sophomore year, Chalmers started in three varsity sports for the Sailors — at wide receiver in football, at forward in basketball and at outside hitter in volleyball.
“To do something like that in this day and age is pretty impressive, especially with basketball and volleyball. He excels in both,” Ciarelli said. “Being a very good athlete is going to help him down the road. We’ll see where this all leads.”
Although Ciarelli (Long Beach State, 1977-79) and his wife, Cammy, (UCLA, 1979-83) both have a background in college volleyball, his belief was that any kid should chart their own course.
Chalmers is doing just that.
Chalmers produced a .403 hitting percentage with 125 digs and 17 solo blocks for the Sunset League champion Sailors as a junior last season. He earned first-team All-Sunset League and All-CIF Southern Section Division 1 honors.
Even though his parents did not play volleyball, a youthful Chalmers was around the game all the time.
“Dayne’s family and our family, we’re beach families, so any time you get down on the beach, there’s always some kind of Chalmers/Ciarelli family volleyball game going on about 90 percent of the time,” Ciarelli said. “Dayne kind of picked it up early, and when he got into fifth, sixth, and seventh grade, it was just kind of a natural thing for him to go and play volleyball.”
In an era where college recruitment seems to happen earlier rather than later, Chalmers may have remained an unclaimed chip due to lack of exposure. Playing multiple sports, combined with an untimely injury, limited the volleyball showcases he appeared in.
“Part of the issue with Dayne is that he was injured for the [USA Volleyball Junior National Championships] last summer,” Chalmers’ father, Evan, said. “That was a little bit of a timing miscue with him and his development as a high school player and leading to soon being a college player.
“He was trying to pass, and he bumped into another kid’s arm. He had a spiral fracture right below the last knuckle on his left [ring finger], so it took him out for six to eight weeks right during the nationals.”
Overall, Chalmers’ parents were equally happy with the decision, as they will be able to attend home matches and a handful of road contests, too.