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COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL

UC Irvine's John Speraw focuses on volleyball title, not UCLA job

Speraw, coach of the top-seeded Anteaters, is hoping to win a third national championship this week at the Final Four at the Galen Center. He is considered the favorite to take over for Al Scates, who retired after 50 seasons with the Bruins.

May 02, 2012|By Gary Klein
  • Coach John Speraw has led UC Irvine to the men's volleyball Final Four.
Coach John Speraw has led UC Irvine to the men's volleyball Final Four. (UC Irvine )

As the top-seeded team in the NCAA men's volleyball Final Four, UC Irvine appears primed for a possible run to its third title in six years.

Could this be the last hurrah for Coach John Speraw at Irvine?

Speraw, a former UCLA player and assistant, has been regarded as the favorite to succeed Al Scates in Westwood ever since Speraw left the UCLA staff to take over at Irvine after the 2002 season.

Scates coached his final match last month, concluding a 50-year tenure at UCLA that included 1,239 victories and 19 NCAA championships.

Speraw led the Anteaters to the Final Four in 2006 and guided them to national titles in 2007 and 2009. He also is an assistant for the U.S. national team and is a top candidate to take over as head coach at some point.

Speraw said he was aware of speculation about his future but had not been tendered an offer for either job. He said he was focusing on preparing Irvine for its semifinal matchup against Penn State on Thursday at the Galen Center at 6 p.m. Second-seeded USC plays third-seeded Lewis at 8.

"I asked a couple of key players, "'Is this a topic in the locker room or a distraction?' " Speraw said of the speculation. "They told me it wasn't."

Irvine showed its resiliency last week in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament, overcoming two-set deficits to defeat USC and Stanford in five games to win the title.

The Anteaters (24-5) are led by senior opposite Carson Clark and junior outside hitter Kevin Tillie, a native of France who transferred to Irvine after playing two years of college volleyball in Canada.

Senior outside hitter Joe Sunder leads Penn State (23-5), which also features setter Edgardo Goas and is making its 14th consecutive Final Four appearance.

USC, hosting the Final Four for the first time, is seeking its first national title since 1990. The Trojans had hoped to do so as the top-seeded team after winning the MPSF regular-season title. But the loss to Irvine in the MPSF tournament final ended the Trojans' 18-match winning streak and forced USC to sweat a bit until Sunday, when the NCAA selection committee awarded them an at-large berth.

Senior outside hitter Tony Ciarelli has led USC to its third Final Four in four years.

Junior outside hitter Jay Petty leads Lewis (26-6), which is playing the national semifinals for the fifth time.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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