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Spittles forge UCI legacy

Men's Volleyball

Senior setter is last of three brothers who have, for last nine seasons, aided 'Eaters' success.

April 22, 2011|By Barry Faulkner, barry.faulkner@latimes.com
(Courtesy of UC Irvine )

There are broken ping-pong paddles still wedged in the backyard trees at the Spittle house in Redondo Beach. And at the family's previous home in Lomita, the backyard grass likely still has difficulty growing, having been trampled by years of point-by-point plodding, on both sides of a painstakingly erected net, by members of the first family of UC Irvine men's volleyball.

Dean and Tina Spittle are counting down the days, sometimes moments, of a memorable nine-year run during which at least one of their sons — first Paul, then Nick, then current senior setter Anthony — have played for Anteaters coach John Speraw.

In that time, the Spittle brothers have forged a legacy as unique as it is admirable, in what has become one of the nation's top programs. During that span, UCI has played in three Final Fours and two NCAA title matches, capturing national championships in 2007 and 2009.

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And while the Spittles are not among the growing roll call of All-Americans to have helped put Irvine on the volley map, Speraw is not alone among those who recognize that their presence has made an unmistakable mark.

"For me, it's something that is totally unique in sports, to have three brothers and to have them all be such great contributors to this program and its identity, and its character, and its competitiveness, and leadership qualities " Speraw said. "Those are just some of the things that the Spittles — all three of them, and their parents — all just epitomize. If you understand those components of success, then you'd have to recognize that the Spittles have had a huge impact on what we've been able to do."

Anthony, who ranks fourth among Mountain Pacific Sports Federation setters and sixth nationally in assists per game (11.18), helps lead the No. 3-ranked Anteaters (18-11) into a quarterfinal of the MPSF Tournament against No. 6-ranked Hawaii (15-12) on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Crawford Court.

The youngest of the Spittle brothers, and perhaps the most talented, Anthony has emerged as the trigger man after battling freshman Daniel Stork for the job early in the season. Anthony has started 22 matches this season after seeing action in 69 sets as a junior part-time starter.

A former two-time Daily Breeze Player of the Year at Redondo High and an age-group All-American for the Southern California Volleyball Club, Anthony was a redshirt freshman on the 2007 title winner and a little-used backup on the 2009 title team.

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