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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 31, 2003

No. 1 Anteaters face No. 2 Warriors today

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

UC Irvine's success in men's volleyball has been so surprising this season that now the CIA is involved.

"Volleyball is huge," said Kurtis Matzkind, president of the Completely Insane Anteaters (CIA).

The CIA, which boasts a membership of 3,000 UC Irvine students, wears face paint and yellow T-shirts to matches, performs skits and cheers, and generally tries to annoy the opponents of the top-ranked Anteaters.

"Our motto is: Come out and be crazy," said Matzkind, a history major who served as CIA's vice-president last year.

"Last year's president is now president of the student government," Matzkind said. "I like to say he got the demotion and I got the promotion. He gets to deal with the politics, I get to deal with trying to work up the crowd."

His work has been eased by the Anteaters' astonishing start. They have had two winning seasons since rejoining the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in 1989. But after a 10-0 start, the Anteaters are ranked No. 1 in the USA Today/American Volleyball Coaches Association Top-15 Poll. Tonight's opponent, UH, is No. 2, creating a rare frenzy in volleyball-rich Orange Country.

"It's No. 1 against No. 2 on our campus, and that hasn't happened very much," said John Speraw, the Anteaters' first-year head coach.

The match has been moved from 700-seat Crawford Hall, where there have been several standing-room-only crowds this season, to the 5,000-seat Bren Events Center.

"We're expecting a crowd of up to 3,000, and that absolutely will break our attendance record," said Blake Sasaki, UC Irvine's assistant athletic director in charge of marketing.

This year's promotions included posters, newspaper ads and meet-the-player sessions. The biggest seller has been the Anteaters' play. They have twice defeated 18-time national champion UCLA.

Speraw has made some minor adjustments, such as moving Jimmy Pelzel from left-side hitter to opposite hitter. But his biggest contributions have been emphasizing fundamentals and "looking at the big picture."

Those were ideas instilled at UCLA, where he was a middle blocker on two national championship teams and and later served as an assistant coach.

"I didn't want to re-invent the wheel," Speraw said, "and the UCLA wheel has been working well. Most, if not everything, of what I've learned about volleyball was taught to me by (UCLA coach) Al Scates."

Sasaki said Speraw even has attracted his own group of fans.

"He used to coach at UCLA, so many UCLA fans follow him," Sasaki said. "A lot of them have adopted the Anteaters. He's beaten UCLA twice. He knows UCLA's system. It's like (Tampa Bay Buccaneer coach Jon) Gruden figuring out the Raiders."

NOTES: UH opposite hitter Eyal Zimet, who missed the previous match because of back pain compounded by spasms, practiced yesterday and is expected to start tonight, UH coach Mike Wilton said. Zimet and outside hitter Costas Theocharidis arrived yesterday morning, a day after their teammates', because they needed to complete school assignments.