Ask The Bruins - Men's Volleyball
 2006 NCAA Men's Volleyball Champions
UCLA coaches and athletes will be on hand throughout the year to answer your questions in our "Ask the Bruins" Q&A sessions.

This week's featured guest was the 2006 NCAA Champion Men's Volleyball team. The Bruins won their 19th NCAA volleyball title with a 3-0 sweep at Penn State in the championship game, completing a remarkable run that saw UCLA end the season with 14 consecutive victories.

Read below to see if your question was answered.

Daniel (Los Angeles): Congrats on perservering through the season and coming out on top! Thanks for bringing #98 to UCLA! This question is to anybody on the team. When did it hit you all that you were the best team in the country? Did it happen before the final point in the final game? Has it sunk in yet?
Damien Scott: Well, every point was exciting, and you had the nerves like it wasn't really any old game, but as for hitting me that we were #1 in the country ... I think it still is. It comes in waves because sometimes you just look back and think, WOW, did that really happen? So it is pretty exciting and still is.

hunter, manhattan beach: Tony Ker - why do you always jump up and hug your fellow teammates when you are celebrating?
Tony Ker: Hunter, the reason I jump up and hug my teammates is because I am excited that they are making outstanding plays. Also, one of my jobs on the court as a libero is to keep the team's energy high and get excited about things so that our team continues to play well. It is a form of positive reinforcement toward my teammates.

Jason (La Mirada): Coach Scates: Congrats on all of your accomplishments. How many more seasons do you see yourself coaching UCLA Men's Volleyball?
Coach Scates: My 3-year contract is up on June 30. I definitely will continue coaching men's volleyball for several more years.

Stephen (Pops) Acuna: I was watching game 2 with my 5yr old son Bruin and was yelling just as much and getting just as excited as I was during the basketball game against Gonzaga, game two's comeback was just as exciting! Being up 1-0, it was clear to me winning game 2 would take the sail out of Penn St., especially with them getting a big lead. Fighting a hostile crowd and being down,what was said during the timeouts to keep everyone on the same page and remain focus on game 2? Thank you for your time and GO BRUINS!!!!!!
Coach Scates: When I called a time out in Game 2, I told our setter Dennis Gonzalez who our hot hitter was, and because Dennis is a veteran player, I let him design the routes. Next, I talked about Penn State's rotation and who I thought they were going to set on a good pass and how we would score in that situation when we served.

Kevin James: Back in March when we were hosting USC and you guys were down 0-2, did you honestly believe you guys would win? Was the entire team wholeheartedly convinced that a 12-12 team, 5-9 in MPSF, could make a serious run in the NCAA tournament, let alone win it all?
Nick Scheftic: I think we really looked at our record and realized it was do or die time for our season. The guys did have confidence that we could win. In our previous matches before that, we had a lot of deuce games we should have won against Pepperdine and UCI. We saw both of those teams at the top of the league and realized we could have beaten them, but we made a lot of errors. After that, we just put it all together as a team and cut down the errors.
David Russell: There was no doubt in my mind that our team 'could' turn things around midseason and win a Championship. I did have doubts as to whether we would put things together in time. My confidence in our ability to win came from the strengh of character that I saw in every one of my teammates. This team, more than any other by far, felt like a band of brothers who sweat and bled for each other. For me, the closeness of the team and the coaches on the court, in the weight room and off the court brought a confidence beyond what any one of us could have hoped for. We desired it the most, we worked the hardest and we did it together... for us it was only a matter of time.

"Point Bruins!Tom"-North Hollywood: Please understand how special this team is. A team not focusing on their record, individually striving to perform their best, and never giving are "True Bruins" championship or not! I think Coach Wooden would be proud of "those other guys on the court!"
Nick Scheftic: Tom, thanks for the support and for realizing how hard we worked.

Ilinca (orange): To all players, What was the biggest obstacle or challenge that you guys needed to overcome to get to the championship game and win the championship?
Nick Scheftic: I think overall we needed to make more serves and cut down our service errors. Communicating on court was an issue, and we had a lot of lineup changes. When we started communicating more and stabilizing our lineup, we turned it around and got better together.
David Russell: I think the biggest challenge we had to overcome were the late game breakdowns that plagued the early part of our season. There is nothing more demoralizing than working hard all game to earn a game point just to blow a run of points to the opposition and drop that game. We had many of these types of games early on that threw off our momentum but forced us to want to win more and more. Later in the year when we had close games, we were able to make our a final push to end each game and maintain our psychological momentum throughout a match.

Alex (Orange): To Tony, What are your thoughts of having your brother play on the team next year? Whats the good and bad things about having him play with you?
Tony Ker: Alex, I am very excited to have my brother come to UCLA and play on the same team as me. In high school I had always wanted him to be able to play on the varsity team with me, but there was another setter that was my year who beat him out of the spot. The good thing is that I get to spend time with him, and since we get along so well it will be very fun to play with and against him in practice. I know I will be much more critical of his play because I have such high expectations for him. I am very excited and cannot wait until he gets here.

Joe ("Jose Bruin" 1973-1975) Roman: We see on TV segments about the "Game Changing Moment". But you did it one better, and perhaps had a "Season Changing Moment". What moment, either on or off the court, could you point to as the catalyst for the team's remarkable turnaround?
Coach Scates: The game-changing moment in the match was not the one they showed on television. It was Paul George's one-on-one straight down stuff (block) of a Matt Proper spike, which also occured in game two in the semis against IPFW's CJ Macias. Paul also had two solo (blocks), and both of these (opponents) hit 200 points under their average. It's odd they didn't even put blocks on the scoreboard. Points are scored by spikes, blocks and aces, and those stats should be on the scoreboard.

Sam (Jupiter): This question is for Damien Scott, How do you prepare for a game mentally?
Damien Scott: The preparation for the games usually consists of me just relaxing and focusing in my head just the simple moves in volleyball, from passing to where I want my hand to contact the ball. As for the final game, mentally, I just was trying to relax because I was so excited to be around a big crowd and to be part of such a big game.

Cecile (Westwood): This is for Eric. Are you eligible to play on the volleyball team during your first year of medical school? If you are (and you decide to go to UCLA for medical school), would you become the first player to ever win a national championship on a collegiate team while attending medical school?
Eric Chagouri: Hey, Cecile, I am eligible to play on the volleyball team during my first year of medical school, but I will only continue to play collegiate volleyball if I am accepted to UCLA medical school (so cross your fingers for me!). As you already know, this is not the easiest task to accomplish, but neither is winning a national championship. I am unaware if I will be the first player to ever win a national championship while attending medical school, but I sure am willing to try!

Ron Yee (Mission Viejo): What made Coach Scates decide that Jamie Diefenbach was the appropriate sub for the moment? It obviously was a brilliant move.
Coach Scates: Jamie lost his starting spot in our first league match in January and had knee surgery. He had not played in our 14-match winning streak, and I was fairly certain he was not on Penn State's scouting report. He was blocking very well in practice, and although Russell was our best blocker at the time, I subbed him out; I felt Jamie would get some kills for us and block well.

Alexandra (orange): To all seniors, How does it feel to end your ucla volleyball career with a championship? Was this worth the wait?
David Russell: I still feel numb knowing that we accomplished the greatest season comeback of any men's volleyball team in NCAA history. For me, the victory was just the icing on the cake, however. The real treat was the camaraderie we had this year more than any other. I'd easily wait five more years if I could have that again.
Nick Scheftic: It was definitely worth the wait. A lot of our seniors, especially Damine, David, and even Paul George, a junior, they were watching from the stands in past years. It was good for us to all be out there and finish our careers as championshs. It's a really great achievement.

OC Bruin: UCLA Men's Volleyball is absolutely #1! For any coaches and/or players: What, if any, instructional and motivational strategies (team and individual) can you share regarding dealing with performing so successfully in a hostile and outnumbered atmosphere? Defeating a good homestanding team in front of their own partisan home crowd is impressive, but UCLA seems to be able to accomplish this often. Thanks!
Coach Scates: To be successful in a hostile environment, you need to have experience on how to focus on the task and block distractions out. If you are really concentrating, you don't hear anything negative the crowd is saying and don't respond to comments aimed at yourself. When I was a player, my wife Sue would say, "Did you hear what those fans were yelling at you?", and my answer almost always was no. I share this with my players, and they get it. My players loved to hear our little group of 80 fans during the quiet times in the gym.

Pugsitoni, Pennsylvania: Damien Scott, I was wondering what kind of work out you do to get such a toned body?
Damien Scott: Well, workout and physical ability ranked as a high priority since I was in high school, so when I came to UCLA and I had such a great facility and coaches to help with workouts, it allowed me to try to peak physically. My workout usually consists of Olympic lifts and foot speed work now, but before I would just work out probably five days a week and swim, because I wanted to get into the Navy SEALS. Hope that answered your question, it mainly comes down to my determination and desire to peak physically.

Sacramento, California: Tony Ker, I heard that you didn't wash your jersey during the tournament. Is that true, and if so, how did you continue to play? That's crazy!!
Tony Ker: Yes, it is true that I did not wash my jersey since the game against UC Santa Barbara (Apr. 19). I became very superstitious as our winning streak went on and Coach Scates continued to wear his tie. Luckily, I don't sweat as much as some of the other players and was able to withstand the six matches by only hanging and airing out my jersey. Plus, while I am playing, I become so consumed with the task at hand that I don't really pay attention to the smell.

Tatsumi (Los Angeles): As observed through the years of the NCAA tournament, we know that the West coast is a power house in volleyball. Coach Scates, as a prominent figure in the development of the sport as we see today, would you agree that it is now time to expand the field to eight (i.e. like the womens water polo tournament), and allow more teams a shot at the title? I hate seeing very credited programs unable to compete for the title because of the current implications.
Coach Scates: The NCAA has approved expanding the field to eight teams. The NCAA budget committee did not approve it, however. We have to wait another year and hope to get approval next March for 2008 or 2009. We are currently the most underrepresented sport in the NCAA Championships.

Rhonda (Woodland Hills): The seniors are going out in amazing, CHAMPIONSHIP style. What's up next for each of them?
Nick Scheftic: I've been in training with the national team this past week and will be continuing on with that through winter time next year.
David Russell: Next I hope to start my graduate studies and take some more time trying to find a career that I can be passionate about.

Ryoma (Tokyo, Japan): Damien Scott, as a huge fan of volleyball coming from overseas, its been a wonderful opportunity to see you shine on the court. What advice do you have for the gentlemen returning to the court next year as well as the incoming class in order to fill yours and the graduating seniors shoes?
Damien Scott: The shoes that the returning team will have to fill will not be that hard because they all came to UCLA to be a part of the team, and they know what they have to do, keep winning national titles to keep up with tradition. I believe that they will have a great year, they will get stronger over the summer to help them even more. I think that the men coming in as freshmen will help push the team harder and that they will fit in perfectly so that chemistry doesn't change, because that was a big part of our great team this year. I would tell them to keep working hard and WIN IT AGAIN!

Cambria (Westwood): Live games at Pauley are great fun. Do you think now that you've won the national championship again that more people will come to the games? And thank you Eric #33 for the autograph, you are my favorite player.
Eric Chagouri: Hey, Cambria, I'm flattered that I am your favorite player (you and my mom have a lot in common!). I hope that our fan base will grow now that we have won our 19th national championship. It's always great to have UCLA fans attend our matches because we feed off the energy that the crowd brings.

Derek (Northridge): It seemed like the entire team got better at serving over the course of the season. David, Nick, Dennis, and Damien all seemed to get aces at key points in the game. David seemed to turn several games around with a few key serves. Did this play a major role in your end-of-the-season turnaround?
Coach Scates: As the season progressed and our serving errors mounted, we devoted more practice time towards serving. We improved our ace to error ratio dramatically during the winning streak.

Mike (Calabasas): It seemed like there were more true freshman on the roster than any year I can recall. Do you think that the time Matt and Sean got on the court will help them step into key spots next year?
Coach Scates: Matt Wade started in 11 matches during our fourteen-match winning streak and will be a full-time starter next season. Sean started a lot of matches at outside hitter but was looking very good at opposite on the scout team during our streak. It's possible that Steve Klosterman and Sean could trade positions next season.

Madison (Westwood): Thank you Tony for letting all the kids at my school come to see you and your team play. It was so much fun. My dad says you were the best libero in the country this year. What does it take to be a great libero and do you sometimes want to be a hitter?
Tony Ker: Madison, first off, thank you for coming and supporting our team. Secondly, thank your dad for the nice compliment. But yes, I always want to be a hitter and continually take advantage of every opportunity I get to play in the front row. It was very hard making the transition from being an outside hitter in club and high school to playing libero in college. It takes a lot of hard work and determination, sometimes more mentally than physically. A lot of the responsibilities of a libero are leadership and energy oriented, aside from the physical aspect of the game. I have to know my teammates well and be able to interact and communicate with each of them in certain ways. Physically it just takes practice and hard work. Just as with anything else, if you work hard and put your mind to it, you can achieve your goals.

Ralph Kramer (Santa Barbara: Who was your toughest competition this year?
David Russell: In my opinion, the toughest competition we had all year was our second team. That may sound corny, and it may not be the answer you wanted to hear, but it is the truth. Besides having great players, the second team knew us as players better than anyone else. They knew what our weaknesses were and how to exploit them. Along with the challenging level of play and desire from our teammates during every practice we heard some of the best heckling as well. Many times the second team demolished and demoralized the first team by mid-practice, forcing us to overcome mental adversity along with the physical challenge. We faced our toughest challenge in practice every day so that come game day nothing would worry us.
Nick Scheftic: I'd have to say the first round of the MPSFs against Hawaii. I knew during the match that if we won, we'd win the national championship. It was our hardest match and the one I was most nervous and skeptical about winning, especially coming back from losing the first game by as much as we did. To come back and win the match gave us the confidence that we could beat any team. It was our hardest match of the year.

Rhonda (Woodland Hills): How do you feel about making the 5-day trip to Disney's Yacht Beach Club Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida?
Tony Ker: Rhonda, I think this is going to be one of the best experiences of my life. Everybody I have talked to about it has had nothing but amazing things to say about the conference. It sounds like I am going to learn a lot from this experience and meet lots of great people. This will be a nice advantage for next year since I will have to fill more of a leadership role on our team. My only concern is that I will be missing another week of school after already missing three this quarter to participate in the various matches we had around the country. But I think I'll be able to manage.

Justin (Los Angeles): With your win streak carrying over to next year, ever consider throwing out your razors 'till the next loss? Maybe ZZ Top beards would bring you even more luck!
Paul George: I had several proposals from teammates and fans alike, asking me to keep the beard for the "entire" win streak, meaning through the course of next year as well. I let my beard grow out through the duration of our volleyball tour through Italy last summer - it reached about double the length it was in the NCAA finals. I've done the full beard thing, and somehow I knew keeping it wouldn't go over so well in my more personal life. It was gone an hour after the match concluded.

Jeff (Tempe, AZ): This question is for Paul George - Paul, How do you get your lumbejack beard to grow so thick so fast? and why does is grow red when youre not a redhead? Just a curious fan in Arizona. Congrats on the title!
Paul George: Jeff from Tempe, AZ, some people would call me the "five minute man" my beard grows so fast. For some reason it grows orange - must be those Chatsworth High School colors flowing through my blood, creeping their way back out again. But don't worry, the beard is gone.

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