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President Bush admires Anteaters

VOLLEYBALL: While addressing national champs Monday, Commander in Chief says, 'Go Anteaters!'

June 19, 2007

WASHINGTON — UC Irvine men's volleyball coach John Speraw called it a pinch-yourself-moment. He was talking about meeting President George W. Bush and visiting the White House on Monday, along with 18 other teams that won national championships this year.

As an added treat for the UCI men's volleyball team, President Bush singled out the Anteaters while addressing the teams on the South Lawn. As he told the crowd about the different mascots which were represented by teams, he ended with, "and we even have Anteaters. Go Anteaters!"

"It was unbelievable," UCI senior Jayson Jablonsky said, by telephone, of meeting the President and visiting the White House. "Being able to meet the man that runs the country. It was pretty amazing."

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UCI (29-5) won its first national championship in volleyball on May 5, when it defeated Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne in four games at Ohio State.

The Anteaters began Monday at the University of California Washington Center (UCDC) receiving a letter and plaque from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's office. Then it was off to the White House, where team captains Brian Thornton and Jablonsky presented the President with a team jersey and a stuffed Anteater.

The team also took a photo with President Bush. The UCI squad was accompanied by Chancellor Michael Drake.

"I had this thought in my mind that what we've done is pretty special," Speraw said of his thoughts at the White House. "You're out on the volleyball court and the next thing you know, [the President is] there talking about the Anteaters. The whole thing is a pinch-yourself moment for me. Five years ago, there were some tough times, but that seems so far away. It's been incredible."

Speraw, the fifth-year coach, became the third person in NCAA men's volleyball history to win a national championship as a coach and a player. He played for UCLA, which won the NCAA title in 1993 and 1995. He also was an assistant coach for the Bruins when they won NCAA crowns in 1996, 1998 and 2000.

— From staff reports

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