Ball Staters are from places like Erlanger, Ky. and Elkhart, Ind. There was no way they could beat guys from, say, Cal State Long Beach, out of Honolulu, Huntington Beach, Hermosa Beach, Seal Beach and, naturally, Long Beach itself. Kids who live by the California shore grow up with the sea breeze ruffling their sun-bleached hair and volleyballs bouncing off their hands. Setting, spiking and digging are more familiar terms to them than runs, hits and errors.
Some even have volleyball pedigrees. Holtzman, the tanned UCLA junior, has been playing since he was 4 years old. His mother Norma was a third-team All-America. His dad Bernie has been digging spikes out of the sand practically since the sport first moved west. Bernie put Dane in his first beach doubles tournament at age 11.
Not that volleyball is all they know. Dane recently started singing with a band at the Windjammer, on Sunset Strip, which is owned by an old teammate of his father's. UCLA's other setter, Ed Machado, who is as blond as California athletes are supposed to be, made the dean's list last quarter with a perfect 4.0 grade average and has won UCLA's surfing championship two straight years.
On Friday each team played the other in a round-robin to establish seeding. UCLA beat Santa Barbara and Ball State, and Long Beach did the same. They met in the final match of the day and the Bruins were extended before winning 15-12, 13-15, 15-2.
"We can't make that many mistakes and hope to beat UCLA," said Long Beach Coach Randy Sandefur. "We had poor ball handling and we didn't serve tough. They did. There seem to be some drafts in here and that new ball floats and jumps."
UCLA also used its flying-circus offense with good effect. Normally, the man in the middle of the front line sets to one of the spikers on either side. Scates borrowed a more complicated attack from the quick, aggressive Japanese, in which the small man in the back row—Holtzman or Machado—runs up to the front after the serve to be the setter. This frees three men to be potential spikers and confuses the blockers on the other side of the net. At the start of the season, it confused the Bruins, too.
"The most exciting offensive play in volleyball is a well-executed spike off a set placed only a foot or so above the net," says Scates. "This play was perfected by the Japanese to defeat the block of their taller opponents. It takes split-second timing between spiker and setter. The spiker is in the air before the setter touches the ball and should be at the top of his jump as the ball is clearing the tape."
In Saturday afternoon's games No. 1 UCLA disposed of No. 4 Santa Barbara ( Ball State had upset the Gauchos Friday), and No. 2 Long Beach beat Ball State to set up the finals.
It was a match UCLA had prepared for. The Bruins came out for practice two months early and went through a rigorous conditioning program. Eddie Machado had spiked against a wall 15 minutes a day to improve his arm swing, since in Scates' system the setters have to hit, too. Others ran on the grass or up and down dormitory stairs.
The tournament was competing with UCLA's annual campus carnival, Mardi Gras, but 3,143 fans paid to see the finals. Not long ago Scates would have paid them, just so his underbudgeted orphans could have an audience.