Volleyball: Look for locals in big match

The men's college volleyball season kicks into high gear Wednesday, when the UC Irvine men's team plays host to the nation's top-ranked team, USC.

If the match is anything like last year's early-season match when UCI won the first two games and USC fired back to take the final three games and the match, it will be exciting.

The teams still have memories of the 2009 NCAA Championship in Provo, Utah, where USC switched sides in the fifth game with a lead only to have Ryan Ammerman-led UCI score the last two points to win the national championship. The two teams were preseason picks as co-champs in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

USC's roster is loaded with local players including All-American Tony Ciarelli. A former junior All-American with Balboa Bay Volleyball Club, Tony returns for his junior season as a much stronger player. He spent the summer with his uncle, also Tony Ciarelli who is Newport Harbor's defensive coordinator and field coach, lifting and conditioning. The USC games like the Newport football games are always well attended by the whole Ciarelli clan.

Another disciple of Ciarelli's summer training is former Newport Harbor phenom, Tucker Peleuses, who has emerged as a candidate at the opposite spot for the Trojans. Hard work has put Tucker in a position to play a strong role.

The setting back-up behind returning senior All-American, Riley McKibben, is Jeff Carlson, who is a former excellent all-around player at Corona del Mar. Joining Carlson from Corona is outside hitter, freshman Joey Booth.

One of the greatest stories about this USC team involves JB Green. At Newport Harbor, Green was a standout on both the football field and the volleyball court. He opted to play football at USC during his freshman year at USC which was coach Pete Carroll's last season at USC. Tiring of football, JB opted to tryout for the USC volleyball team as a libero. Typical of JB and his athletic abilities, he made the team despite the return of last year's starter, Andrew Pizula (a former standout at Orange Coast College).

To his former coaches, nobody is surprised by JB's success. He is a great athlete and an even greater leader.

Coincidentally, his cousin, Kevin Welch, just completed a similar collegiate journey where he played football during his freshman season at Indiana University and finished his collegiate athletic career as the libero for UCI's team last year. A tribute to the athleticism and leadership skills of both.

The match at UCI's Bren Event Center starts at 6 p.m., which is a new start time for the UCI matches during the week. This will be a great opportunity to catch USC with a number of our local athletes and a very talented UCI team battle in a match that could be a preview of the 2011 national championship.

Seeing the USC team playing at such a high level must bring a smile to the faces of many former Trojans who played on very successful USC teams like Newport Harbor's Steve Timmons and Bill Yardley as well as Corona del Mar's Jason Perkins and Don Killian (one of the first).

Charlie Brande is a former volleyball coach of Newport Harbor High and Corona del Mar.

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