Friday, March 22

Volleyball coach John Speraw looks into past success for victory in Rio

UCLA alumnus John Speraw will coach Team USA for the 2016 Olympics. Speraw led the Bruins to the NCAA tournament semifinals this spring. (Kathy Chen/Daily Bruin)

UCLA alumnus John Speraw will coach Team USA for the 2016 Olympics. Speraw led the Bruins to the NCAA tournament semifinals this spring. (Kathy Chen/Daily Bruin)

After a top-four finish during his collegiate season, UCLA men’s volleyball coach John Speraw now focuses on an even more daunting task – bringing home gold during the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Speraw and his staff have assembled one of the youngest teams to ever compete in the Olympics. The average age of the squad comes in at 27.8, with nine of its 12 players under 30.

Considering the team’s youth, Speraw knows that that lack of experience may be a challenge for the team.

“In order for us to achieve our goal, we are going to need one of the greatest collective efforts in USA Volleyball history,” Speraw said in an interview with USAV. “We don’t have the experience that past teams have had. For us to go through this is going to require all of us to be at our very best.”

Team USA qualified for the Rio Olympics by winning the 2015 FIVB World Cup under Speraw’s leadership.

The official US Olympic team roster was announced in late June. Included in that lineup are players that hail from a variety of collegiate volleyball powerhouses including BYU, Long Beach State, Loyola of Chicago, Penn State, UC Irvine, USC and Stanford.

Despite Speraw’s UCLA connection, there are no Bruins on the roster.

However, there are a couple of familiar faces on the coaching staff. Former UCLA assistant coaches Matt Fuerbringer and Andrea Becker have joined the 2016 Olympic staff as an assistant coach and sports psychologist, respectively.

Since Speraw’s contract was renewed for another four years at the beginning of June, Team USA has gone on to perform at a very high level.

The U.S. defeated Cuba twice in a pair of friendly exhibition matches before FIVB World League play.

The U.S. holds an 8-1 record in FIVB World League with the one loss coming at the hands of No. 1 Brazil.

When Olympic play begins Aug. 7 against Canada, Speraw will attempt to replicate the success he found in 2008.

Speraw was an assistant coach for the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team during the Beijing Olympics when the team won gold.

As UCLA searches for its 114th national title and 20th men’s volleyball title, team USA vies for its fourth gold and fifth overall medal.

“It’s incredible to be able to represent your country,” Speraw said. “Coaching Team USA and UCLA are, in my opinion, two of the top five jobs you can have in volleyball. And for me to be able to do both, it’s an indescribable honor.”

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Senior staff

Sugimura currently heads the men's soccer, women's basketball and women's swim and dive beats. He has been in the Sports section since 2015 and previously covered women's volleyball and men's volleyball.

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