Kiraly brings U.S. women’s team to SBCC on Friday

The USA National Women's Team is currently ranked No. 2 in the world.

The USA National Women’s Team is currently ranked No. 2 in the world.

 

Karch Kiraly knows all about the emotion, sense of pride and responsibility that come with putting on a USA volleyball jersey and playing before a crowd.

He’s worn the jersey several times in his storied career and has had Olympic gold medals draped over it three times.

Kiraly is the coach of the USA Women’s National Volleyball Team and his goal is to see his players wearing gold medals around their necks at the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016 and in Olympics beyond.

Karch Kiraly returns to Santa Barbara as the coach of the USA Women's National Volleyball Team.

Karch Kiraly returns to Santa Barbara as the coach of the USA Women’s National Volleyball Team.

Kiraly is bringing his No. 2 world-ranked USA squad to SBCC’s Sports Pavilion on Friday for what’s being called the “Red-Blue Match.”

The festivities start at 4:45 p.m. with a Q&A session with Kiraly, followed by warm-ups and the match at 6:30 p.m. A meet-and-greet with the players will follow the match.

The event is a treat for the local volleyball community. It gets to see world-class level volleyball and welcome Kiraly back home. He started is legendary career in Santa Barbara, playing with his father, Laszlo, at East Beach. He led Santa Barbara High to a CIF title in 1978 and then went on to win three NCAA titles at UCLA, Olympics gold medals with the U.S. Men’s National team in 1984 and 1988 and the first men’s sand volleyball Olympic gold in 1992. He is also the winningest pro beach volleyball player of all-time with 148 titles.

Admission to the Red-Blue Match is free for youth under 18. Regular admission is only $5.

The Santa Barbara date is the first in a series Red-Blue Matches for the national team as it prepares from some major tournaments, including the World Championships in late September.

“The big thing is the first time we put on a USA uniform this year is in Santa Barbara,” said Kiraly.

He said the idea of the Red-Blue event is to give him and the players the opportunity to test out things during a live match situation, as well as promote the game and inspire the next generation of players.

“It gives us some better knowledge about our players and gives players more experience with that uniform on so, hopefully, we can perform at the highest level possible when we have a different color jersey across the net,” he said.

Since taking over the program last September, Kiraly’s U.S. squad has won two gold medals, a silver and finished sixth in competitions around the world.

He said his new group of players has made a good impression. Setter Alisha Glass was named the outstanding setter at the World Grand Prix 2013.

“We had list of people our opponents had not seen before. They were saying, ‘Where did these people come from?’” he said.

“Last year was a great year to get experience for players who had never worn the USA jersey,” he added. “And we continue to build on that. We’ve been working with a lot of young people who are dedicated to learning and constantly striving for mastery of their craft.”

Kiraly is getting the players ready for five major competitions: the Montreux Masters in Switzerland, Pan American Cup in Mexico City, U.S. Cup against No. 1-ranked Brazil, FIVB World Grand Prix and the FIVB World Championships.

The U.S. Cup will be played July 5-6 at UC Irvine and USC.

This is Kiraly’s first head coaching job since he coached his two sons, Kristian and Kory, when they played high school volleyball at St. Margaret’s High in Orange County. He was Hugh McCutcheon’s assistant with the U.S. women at the London Olympics

“People joke that the route to coach the USA in the Olympics is go through high school,” he laughed.

Of the job, he said, “It’s really, really hard but it’s awesome to be part of this challenge.”

Volleyball has been part of the Olympic Games since 1964. In that time, the U.S. women have won three silvers and a bronze medal, “but they have yet to stand on top,” Kiraly said. “One of our big jobs is to win one of those some day. We hope to make it happen sooner or later.”

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