The UCLA volleyball program this week mourns the passing of former player John Zajec, who lettered three seasons on the Bruins’ first three NCAA championship teams. Zajec, who died Tuesday night, was 63.
Zajec played middle blocker for the Bruins from 1970-72 and was a teammate of Kirk Kilgour, Ed Machado and Dick Irvin, among others. In his final year of 1972, Zajec earned NCAA All-Tournament honors. In the championship match, the Bruins rallied from two games down to outlast San Diego State in five games. UCLA finished with a record of 27-7.
Zajec played for UCLA teams that won three national championships, one conference title and boasted a combined record of 80-9.
“John was part of an era that set the standard of UCLA volleyball,” said retired Hall of Fame Coach Al Scates. “He was a great competitor, an unselfish teammate and a loyal supporter of our program for many years. My condolences are with his wife Terri and the family at this time.”
In 1974-75, Zajec played for the U.S. National Team with Doug Beal (current USA Volleyball CEO), Chris Marlowe, Paul Sunderland and Tim Bonynge, among others. He was a starter at the 1975 NORCECA Championships where the U.S. placed third, and he started on the 1975 U.S. Pan American team that placed fourth. Also in 1975, he earned USVBA All-America Honorable Mention honors, playing for San Diego Chart House, which won the men’s open title at the USVBA National Open.
A familiar face at the annual UCLA Alumni volleyball match and many other volleyball matches in the Southland, Zajec will be remembered for his enthusiasm and support by alumni, coaches and players.
“He was a wonderful supporter of volleyball,” said current head coach John Speraw. “I met him many years ago, and I got to know him well during my coaching career. He was a great fan of the game and attended a lot of matches in Southern California. He was always quick with a smile and a greeting. We will miss him. Our thoughts and prayers this week are with his wife and family.”
Following his volleyball playing days, Zajec received his law degree from Loyola Law School in 1976. He was a civil litigator for a number of years and he also owned a business as a licensed contrator. In 1985, he joined the District Attorney's office, where he worked for the next 28 years. In 2001, he was appointed Head Deputy and supervised a number of divisions in the city. Most recently, he was Head Deputy of the Torrance Branch.
John Zajec is survived by his wife Terri Zajec, a stepson Kyle Vignoli, and sisters Mary Zajec and Barbara Kamporeala.
Services will be held Wed., Sept. 4 at 11 a.m. at Green Hills Memorial Park, 27501 South Western Ave. in Rancho Palos Verdes. Reception information will be announced at the chapel. Flowers may be sent directly to the funeral servce. Donations may be mad in John's honor to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through its webiste at www.lls.org or mailed to 1311 Mamaroneck Ave., Suite 310, White Plains, NY 10605. Cards may be sent to Terri Zajec in care of Kathryn Montiel-Verdugo in care of the Torrance Branch Office, 825 Maple St., Torrance, CA 90503.