After losing six seniors last year, the reigning national champion, the UC Irvine Mens Volleyball team has their work cut out for them in the 2010 season.
“It is natural in collegiate volleyball to lose players every year. You just have to make adjustments in roles and leaderships to be successful,” Coach John Speraw said.
Adjustments are the name of the game this season for the UCI volleyball team. With much of their line-up made up of underclassmen, the younger, more inexperienced players are going to be forced to take unexpected leadership roles and guide the team towards another national championship.
All-Americans junior Jordan DeFault and sophomore Carson Clark are two examples of players thrust into a position of authority.
“I need to make more of an impact this year than as I did as a freshman last year. I am looking to help some of the younger players help fill in key roles,” Clark said.
However, after losing two key leaders Taylor Wilson and Ryan Ammerman last year, DeFault knows he is trying to fill big shoes as a leader on the team.
“[Carson and I] watched the leaders of last year so we have an idea of what we need to do to keep the improving,” DeFault said.
However, changes in leadership are not the only adjustments the Anteaters are going to have to make. The Anteaters suffered a serious downsize in height, losing multiple starters over 6’8”.
“We are going to need to change the entire way we play – our entire offense. Our passing game and the way we attack needs to change. The key is to keep making the adjustments throughout the season,” Clark said.
Despite the setbacks, Coach Speraw is not worried about the adjustments that need to be made this season. While nine of the Anteaters are underclassmen, they are also returning three All-Americans, Clark, DeFault and junior Kevin Wynne.
“We may have a young team, but for the last four years we have been to the final four. We have a pretty good idea what it takes to get there,” Coach Speraw said.
The reigning national champions are not only looking to adapt through this year, they are looking to improve from last year as well. Coach Speraw indicated that a lot of the teams from around the country have gotten a lot stronger, and if the Anteaters want to achieve the success they enjoyed in the 2009 season, they will have to make quite a few improvements from their national championship season.
“We need to do a couple of things better from last year. Mainly, we need to control the ball better than we did last year. Also we need to serve a lot better than last year. As of yet, we haven’t,” Coach Speraw said.
Despite winning against Winnipeg on Saturday in an exhibition match, the Anteaters served an average of just .768.
However, even with the adjustments and the improvements coach Speraw made it clear there was one thing the Anteaters needed to win; a fan base.
“Last year we had an incredible fan base and it really gave the players the boost they needed during tough matches. Our fans are an important part to winning, we benefit greatly from the support,” Coach Speraw said.
During last season the Anteaters racked up an attendance of over 2,500 during its match against USC. This year the Anteaters hope to reach 3,000 fans.
“We have the best fans in the country, in my opinion. We love their support,” Coach Speraw said.
The Anteaters take on the Trojans in a rematch of the national championship match from last year on January 15, 2009. This will take place at the Bren Events Center.