UCLA Set to Defend Its NCAA Men's Volleyball Title

Jan. 4, 2007

Third-ranked UCLA is set to defend the national championship it won last season by beginning the 2007 campaign at the 43rd Annual UCSB/Elephant Bar Collegiate Invitational.

The eight-team event begins Fri., Jan. 5 at UCSB's Events Center and Robertson Gym, and continues through Sat., Jan. 6.

UCLA meets Pacific in its 2007 season opener, scheduled for 1 p.m. on Court 3 in the Events Center. Depending on their result, the Bruins will meet the winner or loser of the UCSB-USC match at 7 p.m. on Friday.

All teams advance to Saturday's matches, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. in Rob Gym.

The 2007 Bruins return 10 lettermen from last year's 26-12 NCAA title team and 11 lettermen overall.

Highlighting the list of returnees are All-Americans Paul George (Sr. outside hitter), Tony Ker (Jr. libero) and Steve Klosterman (Sr. opposite).

Last season Ker was named the Defensive Player of the Year by Volleyball magazine while leading the Bruins with 318 digs and passing better than 97%.

George earned Honorable Mention All-America honors from Spike/Volleyball magazine after ranking second on the team in points scored.

Klosterman was selected as the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player following his 32-point, two-match performance at the national championship last May.

Penciled in as starters against Pacific are 6-8 sophomore quick hitter Jamie Diefenbach, a 15-match veteran, and freshmen Shaun Nichols at quick hitter, Kevin Ker at setter and Garrett Muagututia at outside hitter.

Head Coach Al Scates enters his 45th season as the nation's most successful volleyball coach. He boasts a career record of 1,135-212 (.842) with 21 overall national championships, 25 conference titles and 44 consecutive winning seasons.

Following are capsule summaries of the Bruins' 2007 personnel.


Returning letterman Matt Wade proved to be more than a capable backup last season, starting 13 times, including nine times during the run to the NCAA title. The 6-5 sophomore recorded 804 assists, and guided the Bruins to their first victory in their season-ending championship streak. In that five-game triumph against USC, he scored four points in the final game, including an ace for the 13th point.

"Matt is a better setter than last year," said Scates. "He's jumping and blocking much better and he has more of a command of the off ense."
Wade led the team with an attack percentage of .545, committing just two errors in 66 attempts. He also recorded 95 digs (1.0 dpg) and served eight aces.

Three players will battle for the backup spot: true freshman Kevin Ker, redshirt freshman Cooper O'Connor and senior Beau Peters.

Ker set the Bruins to preseason victories over UC Santa Barbara and the Alumni.

O'Connor started the Bruins' first preseason match against UC Irvine, but sprained his ankle and sat out the rest of Fall practice. Peters was ineligible for Fall competition, but practiced and is expected to return ready to play in the New Year.

"The competition at (backup) setter will be a season-long battle," said Scates. "The good news is that all four players are capable of running the offense and they will all improve as the season progresses."


Senior Paul George returns as the Bruins' captain and one of the best passers in the country. Last season, George passed over 95% of his chances successfully and is expected to improve in that area in 2007.

George also established career-highs in every offensive category and ranked second on the team in points scored with 474 (3.6 ppg).

"Paul was the unanimous selection as team captain," said Scates. "He is our leader in the weight room, on the court and off . He is also passing better than ever."

During the Bruins' championship run a year ago, George hit .300 and passed at a .961 clip.

Behind George is sophomore Ryan Ratelle, who earned a varsity letter in 2006 by playing in eight matches. More importantly, he proved to be more than a capable passer at the position, recording a 100% passing ratio in 11 games.

True freshman Dylan Bowermaster missed most of Fall practice with a broken wrist. He will attempt to break into the travel squad in the Winter Quarter.

At the other outside hitter's spot, true freshman Garrett Muagututia has been penciled in as the starter. An eight-time letterman in volleyball and basketball at Francis Parker HS in Oceanside, the 6-5 Muagututia is a solid passer who possesses outstanding leaping ability and can block, hit and serve with authority.

"Garrett will score plenty of points for us," said Scates. "He has all the tools to succeed in this program."

As a two-sport high school athlete Muagututia earned All-CIF honors in both sports.

Competing with him will be true freshman Kent Kraushaar, whose brother Kris earned all-conference honors as an outside hitter in 2005. Kent was also an eight-time volleyball and basketball letterman at Woodbridge High School in Irvine.

"Kent is one of the best jump servers on the team," said Scates, "and he hits out of the back row very well."

Kraushaar was named to Volleyball magazine's "Fab 50" list last season while earning First-Team All-CIF and Sea View league honors. In a CIF quarterfinal match against St. John Bosco last season, he slammed 41 kills.


The Bruins lost both starting quick hitters last season -- Nick Scheftic and David Russell -- but they are deep and talented at the position.

Projected starter Brett Perrine was redshirted last season and sophomore Jamie Diefenbach earned plenty of playing time. Entering Winter Quarter, these players are expected to control the net for UCLA in the coming seasons.

Teammates at Newport Harbor HS, Perrine and Diefenbach each earned seven varsity letters in volleyball and basketball. Both earned all-league volleyball honors in leading the Sailors to Sea View League titles and CIF playoff berths.

"Brett Perrine is an explosive player with great quickness and a good jump serve," said Scates. "Diefenbach is a good blocker and hitter and a very inspirational player."

In the Fall, Diefenbach earned a spot on the UCLA men's basketball team after making the team in an open tryout. He will return to the volleyball team for Winter practice.

Last season, he earned a letter by appearing in 15 matches and recording 61 kills (1.7 kpg) and 37 total blocks (1.0 bpg). In the NCAA final against Penn State, he added three kills and three block assists for 4.5 points.

Contending for playing time at this position are fourth-year junior Mark Lovein and redshirt freshman Shaun Nichols, who started in the Fall in place of Diefenbach.

Lovein is a former two-sport prep star from Esperanza HS in Yorba Linda, Nichols lettered three years in volleyball at Granite Bay HS in Fair Oaks.


A healthy, strong and prepared Steve Klosterman is welcome news for the 2007 Bruins, who were a .500 club until the 6-7 veteran caught fire last season.

Last season, Scates was forced to count Klosterman's swings until the player's surgically repaired shoulder was strong enough to endure the rigors of competition.

Entering the '07 campaign, Scates can "feed the dog" when he's hungry. On April 14, the second to last regular season match, Klosterman devoured Cal State Northridge with 30 kills in 59 attempts (.390), settling all doubts about his shoulder. After March 17, Klosterman averaged nearly 4.6 kills per game and more than 10.0 attempts per game, both higher averages than his numbers before the streak began. Klosterman's late season success went unnoticed by the All-America committees, but he compensated for it by earning Most Outstanding Player honors at the NCAA Championship. He also earned All-America honors from two magazines who published after the season.

"He's better now than at the end of last season," Scates said of Klosterman. "He's a stronger version of what he was last year. He has a lot of shots, but he hasn't yet reached his potential."

Klosterman's 1,016 attempts set a school rally scoring era record and was the most by a Bruin player in 10 years.

Backing up at this position will be sophomore Sean O'Malley, who started seven of the 23 matches in which he played. A wrist injury in the Fall, slowed his development, but he is expected to return to full health once the regular season begins.

Last season, O'Malley established career-highs of 12 kills and 14 points against Pepperdine, and recorded six double-digit kill matches.


The Bruins boast two of the finest liberos in the conference in juniors Tony Ker and Eric Chaghouri.

Last season Ker started a majority of the time, but Chaghouri set a personal best for playing time, seeing action in 27 matches and 65 games.

Ker led the team in passing percentage, successfully receiving over 97% of his chances. He also recorded 17 matches with a 100% passing ratio.

Defensively, he led the team with 318 digs, only the third player in UCLA history to record 300 or more digs in a season, He ranked fourth nationally with 2.8dpg and was selected Defensive Player of the Year by Volleyball magazine.

"Tony passes more of the court than any libero in the country," said Scates. "He played very well in the preseason and we expect another outstanding year from him."

With 587 career digs, Ker ranks second on the UCLA career rally scoring digs list and 10th on the all-time chart.

An outstanding student, Chaghouri is scheduled to graduate in June, one year before his volleyball eligibility expires. He has applied to various medical schools around the country.

Last season, he recorded three consecutive double-digit dig matches as a starter for one week in March. During that time he established a career-high of 13 digs vs. Loyola-Chicago. For the season, he averaged 1.1 dpg and passed successfully at a 95% rate.

"Eric is a very capable backup at this position," said Scates. "He did a nice job carrying the load when Tony was out of the lineup last season."

UCLA Health Sponsor - Event Information
Friday, Apr 01
vs. Brigham Young
Los Angeles, CA
(17-25, 25-19, 25-27, 13-25)
Saturday, Apr 02
vs. Brigham Young
Los Angeles, CA
(25-20, 20-25, 18-25, 23-25)
Thursday, Apr 07
vs. Stanford
Los Angeles, CA
(27-25, 25-18, 25-22)
Saturday, Apr 09
vs. Pepperdine
Los Angeles, CA
(25-18, 21-25, 25-16, 25-23)
Saturday, Apr 16
vs. Hawai'i
Los Angeles, CA
(25-16, 25-16, 22-25, 25-21)
Thursday, Apr 21
vs. Long Beach State
Provo, UT
(26-24, 28-26, 25-19)
Saturday, Apr 23
at Brigham Young
Provo, UT
(20-25, 19-25, 25-18, 15-25)
Thursday, May 05
vs. Ohio State
University Park, PA
(25-22, 22-25, 21-25, 25-20, 16-18)