Freshmen Studs Have Volleyball Squad Locked and Loaded
Despite a season in which they brought home UC Irvine’s first-ever men’s volleyball national championship, the Anteaters began their 2008 campaign with low expectations from their critics. However, this came as no surprise to Head Coach John Speraw and his players.
After the nucleus of its star-studded roster from last year’s team graduated, UCI was forced to begin the inevitable rebuilding process. Typically, this process lasts two or three years, and notoriously tests the patience of every fan.
A program’s resilience is measured by its prestige. Consistently topping the conference standings evokes the stability and strength of a program much more than its ability to compete with a team filled with upper-classmen every three or four years.
If 2007 was the year UCI established its credibility as a volleyball powerhouse, then 2008 will have to be the first year it begins to solidify that distinction.
One glance at this team’s roster is all it takes to realize that repeating their 29-5 season from a year ago will be a tall order, to say the least. Of the 15 Anteaters to receive action on the court this year, six are freshmen.
Understandably, the team’s inexperience compared to last year’s squad forced UCI to experience a learning curve. Certainly this was apparent following its 1-3 start to the MPSF schedule, but thanks in large part to the emergence of several freshmen, the Anteaters could be well on their way to surprising the conference once again.
The Anteaters endured a one-week stretch that included three consecutive losses to Stanford, Long Beach State and UC San Diego before upsetting No. 2- ranked Pepperdine on its home court. Freshmen Cory Yoder and Kevin Carroll were catalysts in the crucial victory.
Playing against some of the stiffest competition in the country, Yoder and Carroll contributed 14 kills each, while Carroll posted a career-high seven blocks.
UCI continued playing on the road that week and continued staying hot