From the Midstate to Tokyo, Mitch Stahl is achieving his Olympic dream.
“There’s a lot of love in this place,” Stahl said of his hometown, Chambersburg. “I’m a Franklin County boy, born and raised. Volleyball is the thing that took me out of here. If it wasn’t for that, I’d still be here.”
The middle blocker is one of just 12 men on the Team USA Men’s Volleyball roster. He’s played for the US National Team for a few years, but that roster of 20-22 guys gets cut almost in half for the Summer Olympics.
“To be apart of that lineage, and to be a part of that Olympian culture,” Stahl begins, “it’s more than just saying ‘hey, I’m an Olympian’ or something like that, it’s the process of becoming an Olympian and getting to that point that I think is so special.”
His volleyball career started at Chambersburg Area Senior High School, where a friend convinced him to try out for volleyball as a freshman. The basketball player had little interest at first, but soon saw success. Winning a state championship with the Trojans in his junior season.
He garnered multiple Division I offers to play in college, but settled on UCLA (2,585 miles away from home) saying he wanted a “world-class education and compete at the highest level.”
At UCLA, the middle blocker shined. In his senior season, he hit .366 on the year and led the team with 42 aces and 1.08 blocks per set mark, plus his 0.55 aces per set average established a new school record.
By the time he graduated in 2017, he ranked No. 2 on the all-time school list for aces, third on the all-time UCLA list for both career block assists and career total blocks. He is also tied for 10th on the all-time school block solo list.
He went on to play professionally in Europe in both France and Belgium, while also training with the US National Team, led by his UCLA coach, John Speraw.
“I love the game,” Stahl said. “I love to compete. I love to be there with the boys, and to have that experience just to fight. I think I bring a lot of passion and energy [to the team].”
Energy on the court, but reserved off it. He listens before speaking, and does so with quiet reverence. He says his core values come from family and his deep love for Chambersburg (that spans back several generations).
His parents, Tony and Lisa, both started their own businesses in Franklin County, after their own athletic successes. His mom played college basketball at New Mexico State.
“I come from a family of entrepreneurs and free thinkers,” Stahl said. “It’s just a very American ideology. You can do it, but you’ve got to work. That example was set in the beginning. I saw that and I grew up in that, I felt it and I understood it.”
For Mitch, volleyball is more than a game. And the Olympics are more than just sports. It’s a time to reunite as one people amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“America is hurting; the world is hurting,” Stahl said. “[You] need to try to have empathy and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Really walk a mile in their shoes.”
Mitch guides his career with a few core values: empathy, respect, understanding, faith, family and friends.
His resume in high school and college already cement him as one of the best volleyball players to come out of Pennsylvania. After the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Mitch hopes to add Olympic medalist to the list. The Men’s Volleyball team won a bronze medal in 2016.