Spittle, who has started all season, does not rank in the top three in any statistical category. But UCI Coach John Speraw said he is unrivaled in at least one department.
"His biggest attribute is his natural leadership ability," Speraw said. "He's probably the best team leader I've ever been around or ever seen. And I've been around some great team leaders at UCLA [where he played and was an assistant for four years before taking over at UCI prior to Spittle's freshman season]. Paul is just a tremendous, tremendous leader."
Speraw said Spittle's intensity, competitiveness and outgoing personality are all components of his ability to inspire. But it's Spittle's work ethic, Speraw believes, that thrusts the undersized overachiever to the forefront in terms of his teammates' esteem.
"If you talk to anyone about the fundamental traits of a leader the first is, you have to lead by example," Speraw said. "There's no question Paul is the hardest worker on the team. Whether it's in the weight room or on the court. When you work as hard as he does, it certainly brings credibility to your role as a team leader."
Spittle was recruited by former men's coach Charlie Brande as a libero out of St. John Bosco High.
"I couldn't stand libero," Spittle said. "I was recruited as a libero, because I don't think any school would have thought of me as an outside hitter. But I thought I could help the team more playing outside, even if I was on the second team."
That's exactly where he was his first two seasons, before averaging 1.4 kills per game as a junior. This season, he is averaging 2.03 kills per game with a .266 hitting percentage, well beyond what Speraw had hoped.