Men’s volleyball owns the most national titles of any sport in UCLA history with 19 NCAA championships, all of which were won by legendary coach Al Scates. After 49 years of coaching the Bruins, Scates announced last spring that the 2011-2012 season would be his last, meaning it will be his final opportunity to win the coveted 20th national title which would place him alone in first with the most NCAA titles won by a coach in any college sport.
On paper, it looks like winning that 20th championship is within reach as UCLA returns every key player but one ““ libero Tom Hastings, who is now a graduate assistant for the squad.
Led by its power in the middle, UCLA should have one of the deepest squads in the nation, something that Scates will utilize to the fullest. Second team All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation rising redshirt senior middle hitter Weston Dunlap will be a major part of the offense along with fellow senior middle hitter Thomas Amberg, who had a strange litany of injuries last season that held him back from reaching his All-American potential.
On the outside, UCLA has rising sophomore from Argentina Gonzalo Quiroga, who is the Bruins’ service ace while being one of the most polished hitters on the squad. Fellow rising sophomore Robart Page has national team potential according to Scates thanks to his 7-foot frame and he showed a lot of promise as a hitter after being a setter for several years.
While these players will be vital for UCLA during the season, there is tons of depth at every position with versatile players like rising senior Kyle Caldwell who can play anywhere from setter to opposite hitter and rising redshirt senior Jack Polales who can play all three hitting positions.
The Bruins’ journey toward the national title will be aided by a drop-off among other elite teams around the nation like the USC Trojans, who are losing three starters, and the national title-winning Ohio State Buckeyes, who are losing four starters.
Injuries, inconsistency and youth plagued the Bruins all of last year, so an offseason of recovery and maturity should put UCLA in good position to compete for the national title.
Compiled by Jacob Ruffman, Bruin Sports senior staff.