UC Irvine is exploring the possibility of expanding the amount of teams participating in its international preseason tournament this fall.
Anteaters head coach John Speraw said Tuesday that it is likely the UC Irvine International Volleyball Tournament will be more than a five-team field, if it is financially possible for the school.
“If you bring in more teams it costs more. We have begun to develop a reputation overseas with this tournament and it’s a nice event that teams want to play in,” Speraw said. “We have had more teams request to play this year. I don’t how our final budget is going to look, and we haven’t determined the final number of teams yet.”
This will be the third year of the UC Irvine International Volleyball Tournament, the only preseason tournament featuring a college men’s volleyball team playing against professional teams from around the world.
Among the professional teams participating in the 2010 tournament included Korean Air Jumbos from Korea, UPCN Voley from Argentina, Zhejiang from China, Sada Cruzeiro from Brazil. UC Irvine went 1-3 in the five-day preseason tournament last season with a victory against Zhejiang.
“This is a unique and fun event for our players,” Speraw said. “It’s difficult to run and coordinate and the last few years going through that process will help us make year three more successful. A lot of teams want to come. … It is going to be a greater number of teams than in previous tournaments.”
Speraw said UC Irvine by mid-July will finalize what international teams will be in the tournament and when the event will take place in the fall. The 10-year head coach also said he wants to continue to grow this tournament because of the benefits it provides his players.
“Being able to play at this level and play against professionals and guys who play in the Olympics gives our players the chance to test where they are and where they need to get to,” Speraw said. “Our players get to see these players who play at high levels, and we don’t get to see that in the U.S. With football you can watch the NFL and with basketball the NBA, if you are a college player to see what to do to get to that next level. Volleyball you only get to see that on TV rarely.”
UC Irvine won eight of its final 10 regular season matches last season to finish in fourth place in the MPSF. The Anteaters advanced to the conference tournament semifinals and were ranked No. 4 in the final coaches poll.
With UC Irvine losing four starters from last season, Speraw said he will use the UC Irvine International Volleyball Tournament as a chance to figure out his starting lineup for the upcoming season.
“We will be taking a look at some new combinations,” he said. “We are going to play a bunch of guys.”