Hansen’s best teams, No. 67: The Wildcats won a second consecutive club volleyball title in 2000 | Subscriber


Arizona had two future U.S. Olympic volleyball players on its 1984 and 1985 NCAA Tournament teams, Melissa McLinden and Caren Kemner, which helped put Wildcat alumnus and assistant coach Steve Carlat on the map. .

After the 1985 season, Utah State hired Carlat to be its head coach and actually told him the closet was empty. Really naked.

The Aggies went 1-31 in Carlat’s first season at USU. If that’s not the background, what is?

But it was also the start of his rise to back-to-back national championship titles.

After leaving Utah State in 1991, Carlat returned to Tucson as a volunteer assistant to new UA volleyball coach Dave Rubio. He stayed with Rubio until 1996, a period in which the Wildcats reached the Sweet 16 twice. It was around this time that Carlat, a 1968 UA graduate from Southern California , was offered a job as coach of the UA club’s men’s volleyball team.

College club volleyball might not have felt like anything more than a campfire after work, but it was full time and more. The Wildcats would soon become a national powerhouse, winning the 1999 and 2000 national titles and winning 82 straight games against other club volleyball teams.

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Skip Greenberg, a student and UA volleyball promoter, and his father hoped Arizona would add men’s volleyball as a full-time sport and, to do so, set up a six-man sponsorship package numbers to gain momentum.

“The funding was big enough that we could offer scholarships, equal to what DI programs were allowed to do,” Carlat now recalls. “We had travel funds to attend tournaments nationwide and a small paycheck for me. In the summer of 1998 we organized a program to mirror what other NCAA DI schools had to deal with. work, and also started recruiting student-athletes.”

To make ends meet, Carlat was a special education teacher at Amphitheater High School.

His UA volleyball team quickly took off. With 1999 National MVP Vince Rooney and other top players like Keith Robinson, Jeff Grobe, Andrew Jaekle, Ryan Taylor and Turner Elliott, Arizona has become a force. In one stretch, the Carlat team went 148-13 and beat Pac-12 varsity teams Stanford and UCLA.

Now retired and living in Tucson, Carlat remembers how his club team became national champions twice.

“When news circulated about the elevation of our program, we recruited graduate students, former college players and about ten current members of the club as well as new players selected during a trial,” says -he. Players at the club were entitled to six years of eligibility if they pursued a graduate degree.

Some, like Rooney, had to work to pay for their education. Rooney was a waiter at a restaurant in Tucson; he then got a job in a computer lab, but still had to take out a student loan to attend school while becoming the best club volleyball player in the country.

“We were given a two-hour block, three days a week at the student recreation center to practice,” explains Carlat. “We asked a graduate student in exercise science to organize a weight training program specific to volleyball. I developed a conditioning and agility program.

“The rest fell into place as we were quite skilled, very competitive in every training session and, as you can see, performed very well against all of our opponents.”

In 1999, the National Intramural Recreation Sports Association Finals in Maryland, Arizona swept Penn State, Florida, California and Virginia to win the national title.

A year later in Reno, Arizona swept Navy, Cal, Rutgers and No. 2 Utah Valley to win it all.

Carlat said at the time: “I think every one of our players could start in a Division I team.”

Among Arizona’s best players from the 2000 title club was Steve Walker, now head coach of UA’s beach volleyball program. Walker was a graduate student and man of letters from the Long Beach State volleyball powerhouse.

But there was no progress in being absorbed into the UA Athletic Department as a full-time NCAA men’s sport.

“After five years of continued success, I have approached the athletic department to discuss the possibility of adding men’s volleyball,” Carlat says today. “We were told that for a number of reasons – primarily Title IX – it wouldn’t be possible to add another men’s sport, even if we were self-funded.”

It was then that the club’s backers withdrew their support. After three more winning seasons, Carlat left his position as UA coach and went on to coach the varsity teams at Amphi and Catalina Foothills. He then moved to New Jersey for a few years to serve as a consultant to the Princeton University men’s volleyball program.

Contact sports columnist Greg Hansen at 520-573-4362 or [email protected] On Twitter: @ghansen711


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