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Karch in Control


By Paul Feinberg '85

Published Jan 1, 2013 8:00 AM

Photo courtesy of: UCLA Athletics.

At 7 a.m., Karch Kiraly '83 is in his car, navigating the 30-mile commute from his San Clemente home to the American Sports Centers Anaheim, home court for USA Volleyball. Despite the early hour, Kiraly is wide awake, displaying the focus he had as an All-American and three-time national champion at UCLA. Kiraly is determined to bring that focus to his new role as head coach of the U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team.

Kiraly served as assistant coach with the team during the last four years, working with Hugh McCutcheon, now the head coach at the University of Minnesota. "I'm incredibly excited about continuing what we started and looking forward to the next four years," Kiraly says. And while he views his tenure as a continuation of his experience alongside McCutcheon, he acknowledges that his UCLA coach, the legendary and recently retired Al Scates '61, M.S. '62 is a major influence on his approach.

"Al was a meticulous and relentless preparer whose fingerprints are on every volleyball program in the country," says Kiraly. "Game planning, scouting opponents, matching talent. During games, he felt there was still coaching to do. Some coaches harp on what a team is doing poorly; Al focused on what the team should do next."

Kiraly says there are too many strong teams in the sport to rely just on athleticism. He believes in ball control and speed, so that "teams don't have time to set up and neutralize our strengths."

He shouldn't have any problems with morale, either. "Personally and as a group, we're excited," says libero and two-time Olympic silver medalist Nicole Davis. "[Kiraly] is very well-respected by everyone in the gym. We're still looking for a gold medal, and he's got some great ideas."

The majority of the team is currently overseas playing professionally and won't return to the U.S. for training until the spring. Kiraly says he is now working on assembling his coaching staff in preparation for the next four-year cycle, which will include a World Cup and the World Championships and will culminate with the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"The men's team has won the ‘triple crown,' " says Kiraly. "But the women's program has never won any of those tournaments. I'd like to try and help continue the progress towards making that happen."