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Clark is 'Eaters' quiet icon

Men's Volleyball

UCI's all-time leader in kills and aces hopes to add another NCAA title to impressive legacy.

April 13, 2012|By Barry Faulkner
(Don Leach | Daily…)

Perfection for most, is an abstract concept; something to be pursued, yet never attained.

It's not quite the same dynamic for Carson Clark, whose physical gifts allow for the possibility of achieving perfection on any given play. Blessed with a powerful left arm, rare jumping ability that can put opposing blockers in the lower periphery of his vision, and enough experience to detect gaps in the most well-conceived defenses, Clark's ability to stockpile kills and diminish the collective confidence of UC Irvine opponents — all the while manifesting a California cool that is also integral to his undeniable star power — has made him nothing less than a college volleyball icon.

When things are going his way, which is about the same percentage of time that sunshine dominates the Orange County weather forecast, Clark can fill a stat sheet, help his nationally ranked team string together victories and perhaps even set a few hearts aflutter among the fawning fans who admire more than his game.

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Still, the 6-foot-5 opposite from Santa Barbara, a four-year starter and two-time All-American who ranks atop the UCI career list in kills (1,772) and service aces (169), manages to mix in enough genuine humility to produce a shoulder-shrugging lack of pretension.

So it is that the ability to manage inevitable frustration, even failure, has represented the most difficult lesson of his quickly dissipating collegiate career.

"Players are going to get dug and blocked," said Clark, whose Anteaters (20-5, 16-5 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) complete their regular season at UC San Diego on Saturday at 7 p.m. "And basketball players are going to miss shots. I didn't like it at the start. I was very against the idea of getting blocked and dug. But it makes you get better and hit a better shot and be more intelligent with your swings. That's something that I've had to work on. It doesn't bother me as much as it used to, because I know it happens to everyone."

Clark's ascension at UCI was almost immediate. After redshirting the 2008 season, he displaced a returning All-American to become the starting opposite, then helped Coach John Speraw's squad earn its second NCAA title in three seasons in 2009. He was the MPSF Freshman of the Year and a second-team All-American.

He collected first-team All-American honors as a sophomore and was a second-team All-American as a junior, earning first-team All-MPSF laurels both years.

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