Since we last checked in on men’s volleyball, John Speraw’s guys have righted the ship, winning against UCSD 3-0, Pepperdine 3-1, and recent rival USC 3-1 in a stretch of solid play.
At 7-2, they’re currently in good shape. The win over the Trojans is a good benchmark against a team that has been neck and neck with the Anteaters in recent years. However, the biggest story from these last three matches is the emergence of Kevin Tillie, the junior transfer from Thompson Rivers University in Canada and Cagnus-sur-Mer, France. Tillie shone against the Waves, hitting .478 with 13 kills and just one error. He then proceeded to do even better against the Trojans, hitting a ridiculous .567 with 18 kills. On the week, he averaged .528 with just three errors over eight sets. For his efforts, Tillie was honored ESPN Zone Anaheim Player of the Week as well as the Sports Imports/AVCA National Player of the Week.
So much for having a set and established lineup.
Speraw has the proverbial “good problem to have” with the depth of this team, allowing him to ride the hot hand each game. Kevin Carroll has lost his starting job to Tillie—for now. Against Pepperdine, Carson Clark struggled with a .095 hitting percentage, and was replaced by freshman Zack La Cavera. Scott Kevorken, Austin D’Amore, and Dan McDonnell continue their middle blocker rotation, with D’Amore seemingly the odd man out more times than not.
We’ve seen this in the past with proven seniors finding themselves riding the pine for the young gun (Jon Stellar, coming off an All-American season to boot) … it’ll be interesting to see if the same thing happens this year with Tillie and La Cavera.
In a positive development, it appears like Anteater TV has been ramping up its sports coverage and postgame interviews. Here are some postgame interviews after the homecoming win. There are several postgame recaps after volleyball games as well.
The 2012 Bracketbuster were announced this week. UCI was matched up with Eastern Washington, a game that takes place on Feb. 18. In my estimate, this is a so-so pairing, somewhere between Marist (terrible) and Nevada (good, minus the associated blizzard). While the Eagles are a decent program, having beaten UCI twice in recent years, the return matchup is nothing to get excited over. Hopefully when UCI makes the return trip they can pair the road trip with another team (hopefully a superior one) in Washington.
There are some critics out there who believe that the BracketBuster is a waste of time for the majority of schools involved. The usually meaningless game in February is rarely well-attended, and the return trip can be an inconvenience in following seasons (I’m looking at you again, Marist). However, I ultimately think the BracketBuster is still a good thing to be a part of. Besides being a huge opportunity for teams like Long Beach State (matched-up against a ranked Creighton team this year) to boost their resume and get on national TV, I like getting matched up to random schools that UCI seldom plays, and I like that it seals a return game for the non-conference schedule in future years. No matter who the team is, it is guaranteed to be a better foe than a non-Division I team.