The National Champion men’s volleyball team will be graduating six seniors this year: Nick Spittle, Ryan Ammerman, Taylor Wilson, Nick Goldsbrough-Reardon, Brent Asuka and John Steller. Each player played a crucial role in the now building dynasty at UC Irvine. The New University sat down with this senior group a day before they left for the Final Four to discuss what their time here at Irvine has meant.
New University: Let’s get the annoying stuff out of the way. How were those three days after the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Conference Final where you guys had to rely on getting that at-large bid to make it to the Final Four?
Ryan Ammerman: Well, two weeks ago sucked, obviously. [University of Southern California] played the game of their lives against us, they served real well and it made us question whether we were in or not. We had to practice a few times without even knowing if we were going to play, so it was a pretty long three days for us.
New U: How does this championship weekend feel for you guys as seniors? This is, after all, the last time you will all be playing together in an Irvine uniform.
Nick Spittle: It has been a long journey; besides [Goldsbrough-Reardon], we have all been here for three Final Fours. Four of us are fifth-year seniors. We all stuck it out in the dorms together and you could not ask for a better journey, you know?
New U: Let’s talk about the coaches. We will start with Mark Presho then hit David Kniffin and finally to jump John Speraw. Have at it.
Ammerman: If we didn’t have Presho, we would not have half the nicknames we have on the team. He is a very confident individual and he is definitely cracking jokes on road trips.
Jon Steller: Yeah, one of the best things about Presho is his body language during a match. He is always sitting forward on his seat and is always invested in the match.
New U: What about Kniffin?
Spittle: (Chuckling) Kniffin is probably one of the craziest people I have ever met. (In sequence the rest of the seniors at the table start rattling off, “I’ll second that,” “I’ll third that.,” etc.)
Steller: He never brings more than one bag with two outfits and his banjo on the road.
New U: Now that is the right way to travel. What about Speraw?
Brent Asuka: Smartest guy I have ever met.
Spittle: Just the way he prepares himself and us is incredible. He has everybody so well scouted … to have someone who has been through it all, really allows us to trust everything he says.
New U: Who has the gnarliest pre-game ritual?
Spittle: Probably Asuka with his taping of the fingers.
Asuka: I have to tape every single finger, on every single knuckle so if my hands get sweaty, the ball won’t slip through my hands and hit my face. I put 18 strips of tape on per match. That is pretty much what it comes down to for my pre-game.
New U: Who has the gnarliest post-game energy? I would imagine it be Jordan DuFault.
Wilson: I honestly don’t think anyone does. We are all pretty damn tired after a match.
New U: Now there has been word that you guys are going to start a 33rd Street volleyball team out in Newport Beach. Is there confirmation on that?
Spittle: Last year, a group of us lived on 33rd and a younger group of guys lived on 34th right behind us, and we would play a lot of four man. It got pretty competitive. It was the same teams every time and they were really evenly matched teams.
Wilson: Yeah, it got pretty serious. We were talking about making jerseys and stuff like that. And you know, 33rd is the best street out there.
New U: Oh yeah. We know 33rd well. All right, is anybody as scared of Ammerman as I am when he gets pissed on the court?
Nick Goldsbrough-Reardon: Ah, he’s just a big teddy bear. (the table laughs)
Wilson: I would imagine the opposing team is the most the scared.
New U: You guys have anything else to say to ’Eater Nation?
Wilson: This guy has changed so much, you wouldn’t even believe it. (He points directly at Ammerman as everyone else starts chuckling)
Spittle: Yeah, for sure. First time I met this guy he had a poofed-out fro with frosted tips, a pooka-shell necklace and Nike sandals. But there has definitely been a change for the better over the years.
New U: Yeah. From pooka shells to getting MVP of the Championship is not half bad.