Men’s Volleyball Goes International at Bren
“We are very excited to have the opportunity to host the second annual International Volleyball Tournament,” Head Coach John Speraw said. “The first one was such a great experience for our guys both culturally and in terms of volleyball.”
This year, the international tournament will feature three different teams. The Air Jumbos (Korea) finished second in last year’s tournament and are the only returning team. In 2007, the Air Jumbos won the Korea Volleyball Federation Cup. Some of their top players include Shin Young Soo, Kim Hak Min and Han Sun Soo.
The Newcomers include China’s Zhejiang, Brazil’s Sado Cruzeiro and Argentina’s UPCN Voley.
Zhejiang is one of the most well-known and respected teams in China. They have won multiple titles in the Chinese Volleyball League, the last one being in the 2003-2004 season.
Brazil’s Sado Cruzerio brings a very stacked roster. Wallace Souza is regarded as one of the best outside hitters in the world. He helped the Brazilian National Team win gold in last year’s international competition. Samuel Fuch is a three-time world champion and a silver medalist in Beijing with the Brazilian National Team.
“Sado is going to be an excellent volleyball team,” Speraw said. “They will be missing a couple of players who are competing at the World Championships.”
Argentina’s UPCN Voley are led by their setter, William and outside hitter, Wallace, who have both competed at the international level. UPCN Voley is an up and coming Argentinean volleyball team that finished first in the Torneo Super 8 and second in the Copa ACLAV.
“The general depth of these teams will be something that will create great volleyball competition,” Speraw said.
Last year, the ’Eaters struggled to beat any of the international teams, mainly because of their inexperience at the international level. UCI found some success against the Under-23 Dutch team, as they took them to five sets but ended up losing.
This time around, the Anteaters should have their hands full as the level of competition does not get any easier. Last year the Air Jumbos did not bring some of their top caliber players, but that does not hold true for this year, as they have brought some of the best players in Korea. All of the teams that will compete against the Anteaters have more experience at the international level.
Despite the fact that the level of play and competition presented in this year’s International Volleyball Tournament might be tougher, Coach Speraw still believes that his team can make a significant impact.
“The competition will be better but at the same time our guys have a better expectation of that level,” Speraw said. “Once you have done something for the first time it is a little easier to do it again.”
Another challenge for the Anteaters is the fact that Carson Clark will not be competing in the tournament. Clark is currently in Italy helping the U.S. National Team compete in the Fédération Internationale de Volleyall Men’s Championships.
Despite the challenges that await the Anteaters, the tournament presents many opportunities for UCI’s players.
“High school [volleyball] players don’t have the opportunity to see the volleyball game at the college level except if you live close, and players don’t get to see the international level at all, except for every four years at the Olympics,” said Speraw. “For our players not only to see the next level but to compete against it is invaluable for their development.”
The international tournament presents many opportunities for players, UCI Athletics and UC Irvine that this event could turn into a yearly one. There has even been discussion with international television markets to televise the event in the near future. Although the International Volleyball Tournament may come to Irvine once a year, do not expect any other university inside the United States’ boarders to participate in such a tournament.
“There isn’t an event like this anywhere in the world,” Speraw said. “For us to be able to host such a unique event and have it here in Irvine really puts the city and the university on an international stage.”
Credit for the 2009 and this year’s tournament has been given to assistant men’s volleyball coach David Kniffin.
“David Kniffin is the guy who has been running the show and he has been working harder than anyone who has ever worked in this program,” Speraw said.
The first shot to watch the Anteaters against international players is tonight, Oct. 5, against Argentina at Crawford Court. The ’Eaters will return to the court on Friday, Oct. 8 to play Korea. On Saturday Oct. 9, UCI will face China and they will wrap up the 2010 International Tournament on Sunday, Oct. 10 against Brazil.