Carson Clark is the face of the UC Irvine men’s volleyball program. He is currently a senior honored with the Second-Team All-American, First-Team All-American, and First-Team All-MPSF honors. He is ranked third in the nation in kills per set and seventh in aces. Clark was also a member of the U.S. National Team that competed at the 2010 World Championships and won a gold medal at the 2010 Pan American Cup. As his time in UC Irvine is coming to an end, he describes his wonderful four years here as “epic” and “legendary.”
He first learned how to play volleyball when he was a seventh grader. He loved the pace of the game and was often encouraged by the heckling.
“Heckling is a big part of every play,” Clark said. “There is a break after every play, and right after that, you have a moment of silence where the crowd is able to get after it. That is why we love to have big crowds in here.”
After playing well in high school, he was recruited by many colleges for his volleyball skills, but he came down to two choices: USC or UCI. He was unwilling to come to UCI until he went on a recruiting trip and saw Newport Beach.
“The beach was very close to UCI and that was a big factor for me,” Clark said. “As of right now I live ten steps away from the sand, which is unbelievable.”
Aside from the beach, Clark’s attention was grabbed by the coach and team as well.
“The volleyball team was really good at starting an uprising in the program and Coach Speraw is the best coach in the nation,” Clark said.
After his memorable trip, Irvine became his first choice. He was content with his choice and does not regret this decision at all.
Clark saw early success in his freshman year. He was awarded MPSF Freshman of the Year honors as well as First-Team and All-Freshman team accolades. On top of that, UCI won the NCAA Championship in 2009 and Clark was a big part of that team.
“Being able to play and be a part of that team with those guys was great,” Clark said. “We did not realize what we were doing because we were having such a good time. Just to win it at the end, especially against USC, was a moment that is going to stick with me for a while.”
The team was close with one another and hung out together most of the time. The strong leadership and teamwork on that team translated to success on the court. Clark admired then-teammates like Ryan Ammerman, Nick Spittle and Taylor Wilson because of their leadership. They made the team work hard every day and did not allow laziness.
“This is something I really miss because I loved having these guys with me but now some of us who are seniors have the opportunity to fill that role so that is a great deal,” he said
Now as a senior, he has taken the role as a leader, devoting his strength in working hard and bringing the team together. Clark was able to have fun when he was a freshman on the 2009 championship team, but now as a leader he has to step it up when the game is on the line.
There are some differences from the team he plays with now and the team he used to play with back in 2009.
“We have big players and an athletic team, but back in 2009, we had older guys who were extremely tall and athletic who knew the game much better,” Clark said. “We have to have more fire and grind a little harder than the 2009 team.”
One of the biggest struggles and lessons he has learned was managing frustrations. He did not have many complications back when he was a freshman with the championship team but the years after he had to learn how to manage his frustrations and understand that everything will not be perfect every time.
However, this lesson will help him greatly because he plans on playing overseas in Japan or Korea after he graduates. There will be many difficulties because of language barriers and living in an absolutely different environment and culture.
As his time in college will soon come to an end, he will never forget the memories he has had in Irvine, from hanging out with friends to going to the beach and playing Halo.
“I love it here at UCI. This school is one of the most hidden secrets out there. I had a lot of fun and had a good time here.”