USC is #1. Are you kidding me? This seems to have been the longest slide followed by the quickest recovery in the short history of the men’s NCAA game. I would have some serious hesitations backing the poll position rating if it were not for the recent addition of Jeff Nygaard to the coaching staff. Head Coach Bill Ferguson is doing under the NCAA spotlight what he did in the relative shadow of anonymity of the club game – build an organization that wins. You can’t win a race wire-to-wire without the horses and at SC we see a few flat-out studs in Hawai’i natives Riley and Maddison McKibbin (their uncle Owen was a Trojan many years back and also the Bowflex guy so don’t mess with them) and the 6’8” Murphy Troy. Troy is a legitimate Player of the Year candidate and is playing hungry.
BYU looks tough at #2 but we will have to see if sanctions are coming down. When I bet horses I bet jockeys and so, even though they have hit some bumps, I like Irvine with coach John Speraw (National Championship player at UCLA and coach at UCI) and Assistant Mark Presho (former UH All-American and US Team) at the helm. There is a lot of VB knowledge in that crew. You add to that the between-the-lines savvy of players like outsider hitter Cory Yoder, whose father Bill coached SC to a National Title in ’88, and you have a very potent mix. Thus the Irvine/SC match-up pits UCLA’s starting middle blockers from the early 90’s against each other now as coaches. Now we’ve said it...UCLA. THE BEAST sits at #5. All I can say about this is that the worst year UCLA supposedly ever had in terms of talent, early polling and play, the year when people were calling me to tell me to go to a game to see how bad they were (I did and they were awful that night), they ended with a National Title.
But who am I excited about? It’s gotta be Ohio State! Ohio State playing men’s volleyball at a high enough level to draw solid recruits is an absolute game changer. With 61 National titles and 22 NCAA Titles to its credit this school only knows how to be successful. Wait until the fans get a hold of the culture of this sport. Wait until they discover it’s like going to a basketball game but with a much better party. The place sits 19,500. The attendance recored will be shattered (that is until Nebraska gets a new gym).
In other news we follow the ongoing saga of what the 2011 beach season holds in store. And saving the best for last, it is with great joy that we present Volleyball magazine’s Girl’s Fab 50 list. Narrowing the list down to 50 was not easy. Every decision was fraught with two or even three worthy alternatives. However, there were a few names that stood clear in everyone’s mind. One of these was Krista Vansant. I had the opportunity to spend a few special hours with Krista and her mother Trisha while we shot her for the cover. Humble as a person and passionate about her game, Krista is the real deal. Even at her age, her athleticism is almost imposing. Her quiet, smiling demeanor but thinly veils the edginess of a champion. It is with great pride that we present her as the best of the best. An elite player on an elite list. To all of the Fab 50 finalists, we at Volleyball magazine offer our congratulations! To those that did not make it, I offer this: There are many more players out there with NCAA All-American honors and Championship rings who never made a Fab 50 list than those that did. It’s not where you start your college career, it’s where you finish.
Originally published in March/April 2011