UA men's club volleyball team wins again
The Arizona men's club volleyball team, ranked No. 1 throughout the season, captured its second straight national championship last weekend at NIRSA 2000 Championship in Reno, Nev.
"This one (championship) seemed harder, and it feels great," junior outside hitter Kevin Jones said. "First, we were defending the title, and that's hard to do, and second, the change in scoring that occurred this year makes it harder for the best team to always come out on top."
The Wildcats opened play in convincing style Thursday, winning their pool with victories against Duke, Yale and Wisconsin at Osh Kosh.
Friday was much the same for UA with wins against UC Davis 25-12, 25-20 and Virginia 25-12, 25-21.
Arizona entered Saturday with a match against the Navy and recorded a 25-11, 25-11 victory. After the Navy victory, Arizona had advanced to the quarterfinals in a match against the No. 7 California.
The Wildcats won 25-22 and 25-20 and moved on to the semi-finals which played a bit of a twist for Arizona.
UA had entered the tournament 54-0 in club matches over the past two seasons, only dropping seven games total to club organizations, but the No. 4 Rutgers shocked the Wildcats after taking the second game from them, 25-21.
"It was a challenge at one point. Rutgers was the first club team to take a game from us this season," senior middle hitter Vince Rooney said. "But we went out there and stepped up as a team. They weren't going to roll over for us like other teams had, so we played ball like we were capable of doing."
UA claimed the third game 15-12, adding that to its 25-16 first game win and advanced to the finals.
In the championship game Saturday night, the team across the net was no stranger to Arizona.
It was No. 3 Utah Valley State College, their conference rival.
"I think the tournament showing spoke highly of our conference," Rooney said. "It's a pretty competitive conference."
Facing a familiar face may have played into the hands of Arizona, which had beaten Utah Valley State College in their previous match-ups this season.
"It almost seemed like they knew we'd win before the match started," Rooney said.
Arizona took the championship title in two games, 25-15, 25-22 and completed their quest for back-to-back championships.
Rooney and Jones were named to the All-tournament first team, while graduate student setter Steve Walker was named the MVP.
"When I first started with this program, I never thought there'd be this success," UA assistant coach Skip Greenburgh said. "I am really happy for the guys. This is something they really wanted and made happen."
Head coach Steve Carlat saw the championship as a learning experience for his players.
"I am very glad for the players," he said. "This is a wonderful way for these young men to learn about the best people they can be. They have built character and been given the best lesson of personal growth possible."
Winning their second consecutive title also proved to hold the same amount of excitement as the first championship for Arizona.
"Last year was a short lived relief celebration, it seemed as we came out on top when a lot of people didn't think we could," Carlat said. "This year, there was tremendous gratification. The players got to see the fruits of their labor."
Jones attributed the team's success to veteran leadership and experience.
"We have a lot of experience and the ability to make things happen with few mistakes," he said. "Our experience showed."
"I just feel great, I went out a winner," said Rooney, who concluded his five-year UA volleyball career over the weekend.