Opponents brace themselves for humiliation when Tony Ciarelli steps behind the service line. As the nation’s leader in aces per set (.61), their fear is understandable. USC’s Ciarelli accumulated 164 aces in his four-year career, a school rally-scoring-era record. This serving prowess, as well as a 2012 kills-per-set number of 4.13 that puts him in the top five nationally, is what has earned him the distinction of VBM Player of the Year.
Although the Trojans failed to secure the title, losing in the championship match for the second time in Ciarelli’s career, the 6'6" senior outside hitter is not bitter.
“People may see this as a three-game sweep,” he said to the Associated Press, “but I don’t see that at all. Two deuce sets is amazing for us against that team.”
Ciarelli hopes to continue his volleyball career on the pro scene, both indoors and on the beach, a career path not foreign to the Ciarelli family. Father, Rocky Ciarelli, played at Long Beach State and in a few pro beach tournaments and mother Cammy Ciarelli (formerly Chalmers) played at UCLA and in beach doubles tournaments with Holly McPeak in the ’90s. Ciarelli played for the U.S. Men’s National Team when they placed fifth in the 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico, so there’s little doubt that his dreams for a professional career will come to fruition; it’s merely a question of where he’ll play or if he’ll chose to focus on the indoor or beach game.
Ciarelli’s final season at USC was a good one. Formerly known for emotional outbursts and a quick temper, Ciarelli matured in his senior year, and freshman players declare he was an excellent role model. As a First Team VBM and AVCA All-American, Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year, and AVCA Player of the Year, his contributions to USC’s strong 2012 team were clearly noted.
Originally published in July 2012