Tier 2

West Coast Brigade add former Loyola-Chicago standouts

Published on
June 22, 2022
Written by:
Nick Villamil
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While this weekend’s VLA Exhibition in Phoenix between the West Coast Brigade, Phoenix Ascension, and Phoenix Valor is fast approaching, improvements and adjustments ahead of the event are far from over. Last-second or late-season acquisitions are often the most impactful of transactions, filling a clear need or adding depth to help teams elevate their level of play in the season’s most important moments.

The West Coast Brigade hope setter Garrett Zolg and opposite Luke Denton, who they announced as roster additions on June 17th and June 20th, respectively, will have such an impact.

“We are beyond excited to add Denton and Zolg to our roster,'' the Brigade’s team representative and starting libero Jacob Martinez said. “[Zolg’s] personality and work ethic showcases exactly the kind of culture we are building. “[Denton] has seen the game at such a high level and I think he hasn’t even come close to hitting his full potential,” he added.

Recent graduates of Loyola University Chicago, Zolg and Denton have experience making an immediate impact as new members of a team, both earning Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) accolades for their impressive freshman season’s at Loyola.

In 2018, Zolg set the Rambler’s to a MIVA Championship Game appearance and was named the MIVA Freshman of the Year. A year later, Denton arrived on campus and was named to the MIVA’s All-Freshman Team for his impressive rookie season as a fixture in Zolg’s offense on the opposite pin. Their freshman seasons also garnered national recognition, earning Zolg American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Honorable Mention All-American honors and Denton a spot on the Off The Block Freshman All-America team.

The Phoenix exhibition is the Brigade’s final event of a season that is all but guaranteed to finish with them ranked ninth in Tier 2. In the Brigade’s league-high 18 matches played this season, the room for improvement to become a top Tier 2 that contends for the tier championship, as well as promotion into Tier 1, has been clear.

Such a clear need makes this weekend the perfect opportunity for Zolg and Denton to show just what kind of impact they can have, possibly creating momentum and raising expectations for the Brigade as they focus on the 2023 season. Lack of court time to properly measure Loyola’s southpaws will not be an issue; Martinez confirmed that Denton and Zolg are slated to start opposite each other this weekend.

If Zolg and Denton have a freshman season at Loyola-like impact on the Brigade this weekend, the rest of their college careers also give good reason to feel encouraged about the Brigade’s future. In his next three seasons at Loyola, Zolg earned AVCA All-American Honorable Mention and All-MIVA First Team honors, just as he did as a freshman in 2018. Denton improved on his freshman accolades and was named First Team All-MIVA alongside Zolg in 2021.

The theme of hoping to recreate success this weekend can also be curated from other angles. Zolg is uniquely tied to the Brigade as a longtime teammate of Jacob Martinez. The two attended Mater Dei High School together, where they were undefeated league champions as seniors in 2017, and played club volleyball for Huntington Beach Club. Supported by a history of success with his libero and opposite, it's hard not to believe that Zolg will be successful this weekend.

For Denton, a native of Mesa, Arizona, the Phoenix exhibition will serve as a homecoming as he returns to the convention center where his club volleyball team won a bronze medal in 18 Open at the Boys Junior National Championship in 2018.

There is an abundance of reasons for which to buy the West Coast’s Brigade’s figurative stock in the days leading up to the Phoenix exhibition. And just as when investing in financial stocks, it can be useful to see how a company is feeling about its prospects. In the case of the Brigade, the team is excited about where it is headed. “It’s gonna be fun to be a team of left-handers,” Martinez said.

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