Six months into the job and John Speraw has barely secured new living space and a refrigerator.
All his other stuff will have to wait. That’s what happens when you’re trying to make an impression in your first experience as a collegiate head coach. After serving four years as a volleyball assistant at UCLA, the 31-year-old Speraw is starting his first season at UC Irvine.
He hit the ground running in August, right after he’d served as coach of the U.S. junior national team last summer.
“It’s been nonstop,” Speraw said. “I got started real late with recruiting. Then there was finding a place out here so I could be closer. Commuting from Brentwood was awful.”
The former UCLA middle blocker didn’t waste any time making an impression on the court. Led by an experienced group of players inherited from former coach Charlie Brande, Irvine surprised NCAA finalist Pepperdine on Monday night with a three-game sweep in Malibu to win the Millie & Severson tournament.
It was only the Anteaters’ sixth victory in 32 matches against the Waves.
“It was a good win for our team and it’s good for their confidence,” Speraw said. “I also know that this is January. We have a lot of things to improve on.”
After 12 years in the UCLA program as a player and a coach under legendary Coach Al Scates, Speraw said, he had reached the point where he wanted to run his own program. Some of the Anteaters’ techniques and style of play figure to resemble UCLA over time.
“To be quite honest, I learned everything from Al,” he said. “He’s the best in the business and learning from him prepared me to take that next step.
“I really felt as an assistant coach, my learning curve was beginning to slow. I wanted the opportunity to learn more and make some of my own mistakes and learn from them.”
Speraw said the support he has been getting at Irvine is making him feel at home. Now if he can only feel more at home in his Irvine condominium. He is sleeping on a mattress because most of his belongings remain at his former residence in Brentwood.
“I was rooming with Jeff Nygaard for a while,” he said. “I’ve got to steal my stuff back or he might keep it.”
In a matchup that features the last three NCAA women’s gymnastics all-around titlists, UCLA will face Utah in a dual meet tonight in Salt Lake City. The Bruins will try to end Utah’s 23-year home dual-meet winning streak. Competing are UCLA’s Onnie Willis and Jamie Dantzscher, the last two NCAA all-around champions, and Utah’s Theresa Kulikowski, who won as a freshman in 2000.
USC will begin the season in the top 10 of both national baseball polls. The Trojans, who went 37-24 and advanced to the NCAA super-regionals last year, are ranked third by Collegiate Baseball and sixth by Baseball America. Collegiate Baseball ranks Cal State Fullerton seventh and Long Beach State 13th. Baseball America ranks Fullerton 13th and Long Beach 16th.
USC sophomore middle blocker Emily Adams is one of four finalists for the Honda Award in volleyball. Adams, who helped lead the Trojans to their first NCAA title in 21 years, was nominated with Florida’s Aury Cruz, Stanford’s Logan Tom and Hawaii’s Kim Willoughby.
Senior Ronald Johnson became Cal State Los Angeles’ all-time leading basketball scorer Saturday night with a 28-point performance against Cal Poly Pomona. Johnson has 1,644 points, surpassing the 1,641 by Tommie Lipsey from 1973-76.... Cal Lutheran is ranked 10th and Pomona-Pitzer is 16th in the Division III preseason Collegiate Baseball poll. Cal State San Bernardino is 22nd in Division II.