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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Spiking Back Home

    Graphic design sophomore Ryan Barry spikes the ball in the Arizona club volleyball teams practice March 12. Though Arizona doesnt have a Division I mens volleyball team, its club team is considered to harbor some superior male volleyball talent.
    Graphic design sophomore Ryan Barry spikes the ball in the Arizona club volleyball team’s practice March 12. Though Arizona doesn’t have a Division I men’s volleyball team, its club team is considered to harbor some superior male volleyball talent.

    Senior Eric Vincent was in the dumps when he had to trade in Southern California for Southern Arizona at the end of his freshman year. The Tucson local decided he had no choice but to transfer from UC Irvine, where he played Division I volleyball, to Arizona, his hometown university.

    The decision was more about the pocketbook than passion – a lot of people might blink at paying upwards of $30,000 a year to go to school.

    “”I wanted to stay in Irvine. I wanted to graduate from Irvine. I was kind of moping for the first three months,”” Vincent said.

    There are no D-I men’s volleyball programs in Arizona, but thanks to a bit of luck, Vincent happened to live in the same town as the next best thing. The Arizona men’s club volleyball team is a perennial powerhouse and Vincent said the club “”absolutely”” helped him transition to a new school.

    “”Now I’m glad I made the decision,”” he said. “”I’m glad I came to Tucson. I’m definitely a Wildcat.””The volleyball club is a regular contender. Currently ranked No. 14 nationally, the team has won four national titles in the last 10 years.

    “”I guess I was pretty lucky that I was from Tucson because I would have had to go home anyways,”” Vincent said. “”I was really lucky that we have a very competitive volleyball program.””

    While a bit of serendipity may have brought Vincent to Arizona, it’s often the first choice of other athletes. The club attracts students from all over the country who are serious about volleyball.

    Sophomore Mike Harrison, who played high school volleyball in Chicago, said Arizona is on the radar when it comes to volleyball schools, even without a varsity team.

    “”When you’re talking about club volleyball I would say that the University of Arizona is probably a top-two choice for most athletes looking to play club volleyball,”” Harrison said. “”It’s one of those programs that a lot of players would love to be a part of.””

    Harrison considered varsity volleyball but said he eventually decided on Arizona because he wasn’t ready to devote his entire life to the sport. He added that the club team offers a better balance between school and sport while still allowing players to compete against quality competition.

    “”The top players in the nation I would say still play club volleyball and compete at high levels and are still able to be just college students at the same time,”” Harrison said.

    Vincent has seen both ends of the spectrum. He said the differences between varsity and club teams in terms of practice time are big. At Irvine he practiced six days a week compared to only three at Arizona. Vincent also said D-I volleyball, especially in the high-powered Mountain

    Pacific Sports Federation to which Irvine belonged, is “”by far a much faster and intense sport.”” Vincent also said outside of the MPSF, however, he thought higher level club teams could very well rival some D-I teams.

    Even if it’s not quite D-I volleyball, Arizona still gets its due respect. Team president Brendan Kerr said he was referred to Arizona by his club coach in California, a former UCLA D-I athlete, who was impressed by the school’s program and tradition.

    Kerr added volleyball was definitely one of the reasons he came to Arizona.

    Kerr is something of a volleyball connoisseur – eating, sleeping and breathing the sport. In addition to his duties as team president, he works as a volunteer assistant to the women’s varsity team. He also coaches two men’s teams during the summer and another club team for 16-year-old girls during the school year.

    “”For me it’s all volleyball, all the time,”” Kerr said.

    It’s a lot like that for the other athletes, too. The team maintains a rigorous tournament schedule – seven altogether, including three in February. It’s a full plate and a serious commitment; sometimes keeping up with school can be as difficult as keeping up on the court.

    “”We have a lot of guys who take the same classes and help each other, it’s definitely a family environment,”” Kerr said. “”We might get after each other in practice, but once that whistle blows and the ball drops we’re all friends and family.””

    The team also offers a lot of volleyball per dollar. Each player pays $250 per semester, which primarily covers coaching fees and gym time. Kerr said that’s a “”great deal”” and mentioned that, in California, some club teams can cost between $6,000 and $11,000 a year.

    In all, Arizona is a hospitable home for volleyball enthusiasts of all stripes.

    “”When I was at UC-Irvine, basically my core group of friends were on the volleyball team, a close group of guys,”” Vincent said. “”Now that I’m at Arizona I basically have the same thing.””

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