Men's Volleyball: Upper Arlington graduate Mark Bruns' play on court speaks volumes

DAVE PURPURA
dpurpura@thisweeknews.com
Upper Arlington graduate Mark Bruns had a solid freshman season for the Mount Union men's volleyball team in 2019, ranking in the top 20 nationally in Division III in attacks, kills and points per game. A torn labrum in his left shoulder limited him this spring. Ed Hall Jr./Mount UnionED HALL JR./MOUNT UNION

Mark Bruns might not be the loudest player on the Mount Union men's volleyball team, but given his statistics -- and voice -- such a distinction could be unnecessary.

Opponents quickly learned to plan around the Upper Arlington graduate in 2019, when as a freshman on the Purple Raiders' inaugural team, he ranked in the top 20 nationally in Division III in attacks, kills and points per game.

A torn labrum in his left shoulder limited Bruns' effectiveness this spring, when Mount Union played just 14 matches before the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but the 6-foot-8, 170-pound opposite hitter plans to attack the second half of his college career with a vengeance.

"His low-bass voice was so imposing in the huddle, he wouldn't say anything unless he felt it necessary. What he said was important," coach Matt Mihelic said of Bruns, who also is in the school's concert choir. "I wanted guys like Mark, intelligent young men who could lead.

"I don't want guys who are about 'me, me, me.' I want guys who are about 'we, we, we.' "

Bruns led the Purple Raiders in kills as a freshman with 367 and averaged 12th nationally in points per game (4.43), 15th in kills per game (3.63) and 16th in attacks per game (8.79).

"I got off to a hot start. I felt good. My body felt good," Bruns said. "I really liked my new team and everybody I was playing with. We had a great team energy together even though it was just the first year. We were all new to it and pumped to get started and do the best we could.

"It could be difficult because everybody was coming from somewhere else and bringing in something different. It was all about bringing everybody on to the same page. We had to do the best we could to put that into motion."

Mount Union went 8-20 in 2019 but won 11 of 14 matches this spring. Bruns' freshman season put him on opponents' radars, and that coupled with his injury meant he averaged 2.9 points and 2.4 kills per game.

"So many guys were back and we'd learned from last year," said Bruns, who was injured last fall on what he called "a funky swing" and plans to undergo surgery in August. "Everybody had worked hard and left everything on the court. We all benefited quite well. It was tough to cut it short because I think we could have finished pretty well."

Nonetheless, Mihelic said Bruns still filled his role.

"Not only was he a great killer over there but he was a great blocker on the opponent's strong-side hitter," Mihelic said. "He did well serving for us, too. He was just a very good addition. It helped us get off on the right foot (as a program)."

Mount Union's entire roster is expected to return. The team consisted of two juniors, seven sophomores and six freshmen.

"I'm trying to emphasize defensive things, like better reaction time and getting the ball on the ground," Bruns said. "(Offensively), I really need to make kills and continue getting off the ground. But if teams work away from me, I know I can trust my teammates to get the job done."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

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