BRISTOL, Tenn. – The King University men's volleyball might still be young by program standards, but it has produced some successful student-athletes in that time. Ariel Apolinario ('10) was part of the start of the program in 2009-10 and has become a successful coach since his graduation from King in 2010. This spring, Apolinario was selected as one of the American Volleyball Coaches Association's (AVCA) Thirty Under 30 award winners.
The AVCA created the Thirty Under 30 award in 2009 to honor up-and-coming coaching talent at all levels of the sport. To qualify for the award, nominees had to be 30 years old or younger in 2016, and this the AVCA had a record number of nominations. Of the thirty recipients, 12 are NCAA Division I coaches, five in high school/club, four in NCAA Division III, three are NCAA Division II and Two-Year College, and there's one each in the NAIA, NCCAA, and USCAA.
"Ariel was a founder of our men's volleyball team and an outstanding player," King Head Coach Ryan Booher said. "He has taken his knowledge and passion for volleyball to help others in the sport he loves. I am proud of the coach Ariel has become and also the great person and mentor that he is. He is one of many of the outstanding men's volleyball alumni that has made in impact in the world today. He deserves this honor and I am happy to see him get the recognition."
Apolinario is currently an assistant women's volleyball coach at Rice University, helping the Owls to a 20-12 record, including a 10-4 mark in Conference USA play. The Owls finished fourth in the conference standings and reached the C-USA championship game a season ago.
"Many are the people whom I owe gratitude for giving me an opportunity back during my high school times, college years, and throughout the early stages as a young professional," Apolinario said. "So first and foremost, I thank King, men's volleyball, and Coach Booher. Sincerely this moment is a reflection of every institution, staff, and most importantly each student-athlete whom I have been blessed to share my journey with."
Prior to starting at Rice in 2016, Apolinario was an assistant coach at Ohio University following a stint at Austin Peay State University. Following his graduation from King, Apolinario was an assistant coach at Union College.
In his coaching career, Apolinario has helped guide his teams to two regular season conference titles, one tournament title and one NCAA Tournament appearance. Apolinario has coached four teams that have won AVCA Academic Team awards, 21 All-Conference and six All-Region performers, including three All-Americans.
While at King, Apolinario was one of the most prolific players in program history as he was named King University's Male Athlete of the Year in 2010. To this day, Apolinario is still the all-time leader in kills per set with an average of 3.81 kills per set. He ranks second with 0.45 aces per set and third with a .401 attack percentage. His 556 kills in two years rank fifth in program history.
"One beauty about coaching is to be given an opportunity of becoming a mentor and to impact individuals' lives," Apolinario continued. "I strive to make that influence as positive and meaningful as it can be. Surround yourself with great people, stay humble, and work very hard at whatever you decide your passion is in life."