Wednesday, 7 June 2023

International Volleyball

UCLA’s supporting cast key as Bruins capture program’s 20th NCAA men’s volleyball title

UCLA's supporting cast key as Bruins capture program's 20th NCAA men's volleyball title

UCLA wins the 2023 NCAA men’s title

FAIRFAX, Virginia — Somewhere out there is a young lady who helped the UCLA men’s volleyball team win a national championship.

No, really.

If not for her, J.R. Norris IV might not have been on the floor to play a key role in the Bruins’ victory Saturday in the National Collegiate Men’s Volleyball Championship at George Mason’s EagleBank Arena.

Norris, a sixth-year middle blocker — who, until Saturday night saw mostly spot duty for the Bruins — was thrust into the spotlight against two-time defending national champion Hawai’i. Normally, coach John Speraw complements All-American junior Merrick McHenry with sophomore Guy Genis in the middle.

But in going over the matchups for the Bruins’ battle with Hawai’i, Speraw decided Norris’ attacking and serving could be vital if his team was to win.

Not necessarily a bold move, per se. Norris did average 1.42 kills and hit .582 in the 52 sets he played during the regular season. “Surprising” might be a more accurate description, given that Norris didn’t even play in UCLA’s the semifinal victory over Long Beach State.

The moment didn’t seem to faze Norris. He rewarded Speraw’s decision with eight kills on 11 swings — with no errors — for a .727 hitting percentage and five aces, four in the deciding fourth set. That completed the Bruins’ 28-26, 31-33, 25-21, 25-21 victory and gave the program its 20th national championship.

For Speraw, it was his fourth title overall as a coach but the first at his alma mater.

“I originally started thinking about (using Norris) when I started looking at the matchups and what we were going to need to do on a rotation-by-rotation basis and what I thought potentially were some moves we make,” Speraw said. “ … I was thinking about what the strengths and weaknesses were and how to use those for the good of the team, and tonight, it was the J.R. move.”

Not a bad gig for a guy who got into volleyball simply to impress a girl.

Norris, from Lancaster, California, tells two stories about getting involved with volleyball.

The “official” story is, in middle school, he and his friends decided they were going to try every sport, and volleyball was available. He said he showed up to the first practice, was one of only seven athletes there and automatically made the team.

The “unofficial” story, as he calls it, is of a girl in his English class who was a volleyball player. Norris was trying to flirt…

Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at…