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Colleges: Spoils of title linger

May 14, 2012|By Barry Faulkner

Off-season weight training began Monday for the UC Irvine men's volleyball team, which capped its 2012 season with the program's third national championship in three seasons.

Scott Kevorken, a sophomore middle blocker in 2012, said it was different not seeing departing seniors such as Carson Clark, Dan McDonnell, Kevin Carroll, Will Montgomery and Austin D'Amore.

D'Amore sat down with me following the team's on-campus celebration last week to add some perspective on his four years in the program.

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D'Amore, who started in parts of four seasons and came off the bench to spark UCI to a five-game comeback victory over Stanford in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament final, said he leaves with more than two NCAA championships. He was a freshman on the 2009 NCAA title winner.

"One of the first things [Coach John Speraw] ever said to me was, 'You're coming to play volleyball, but you're going to leave a man, regardless.' And he's done it without even thinking about it and without me giving it a conscious thought. There was no, 'OK, this is what you need to do and when you are going to do it by.' But it has been great and I'm obviously very thankful I got to play for him. He's a big reason I came here, along with the entire coaching staff.

"I think that's why [Speraw] reads as many books as he does and why he does what he does to make himself the best coach he can be. It makes us better men."

D'Amore said he expects his emotions to be flowing at the upcoming team banquet.

"All the seniors will make a speech," D'Amore said. "I'll probably do just what [Ryan Ammerman, an All-American senior setter on the 2009 team] did. Ammo was looking all sharp in his suit and he gets up there and just starts balling. I remember, at that moment, I turned to one of my teammates and said, 'I'm going to be exactly like that when it's my turn.' And that is exactly what is going to happen."

Brian Thornton, an All-American setter on UCI's 2007 NCAA championship team, watched from the bench on Saturday as the U.S. men's national team swept Canada to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London.

Team USA is coached by Alan Knipe, who played at Orange Coast College.

And Speraw, who was an assistant on the 2008 team that won gold in Beijing, is once again an assistant on this year's squad.

The U.S. team's training roster also includes former UCI standouts Jayson Jablonski and David Smith.

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