Not that it wasn't already interesting, but the UC Irvine - UCLA match-up should be even more fun to watch this year. It was already riveting because Coach John Speraw played at UCLA and learned his craft under legendary Bruin coach Al Scates. To watch him go up against (and beat) his mentor was always fascinating.
Now the story takes on yet another layer as Speraw is once again with the Bruins as the head coach, replacing Scates. The national championship caliber program that he built at UCI is still going strong as the Anteaters are No. 1 in the country right now. With 12 returners from that team, the Anteaters are in the driver's seat early in the season.
New UCI head coach David Kniffin was once the starting setter at UCI and played for Speraw. He also was an assistant coach under Speraw for five seasons before moving to Illinois to serve as the assistant coach for the women. Now, he's back and says he wants to demonstrate that UCI men's volleyball's winning tradition.
It's early, but so far Kniffin has done that. UCI is undefeated and beat UCLA in the early season Santa Barbara tournament without last year's leading hitter Kevin Tillie. It took them five sets and ended 15-13 in the fifth. If that's any indication, we are in for some great volleyball between these two teams as Speraw starts to make his mark on the Bruins.
The two teams meet again in Westwood on January 29th.