Although it was another big win for USC, the 49ers' performance was good enough to give them hope for the rematch at Long Beach on April 17 and perhaps for as many as two more meetings with the Trojans in postseason play. By then, Ivie's brother Pat, a powerful 6'5" USC freshman who is said to be an advanced (if smaller) version of Bryan, will have recovered from an ankle injury.
In the past, Long Beach's best hope was to meet USC without Bryan Ivie. It worked last year when Ivie sprained his ankle in their late-season game, which Long Beach won, and still was unable to play when the two teams met in the Western Intercollegiate Volleyball Association conference championships, which Long Beach also won. But with Ivie in the lineup, whether at middle blocker or at opposite hitter (the equivalent of baseball's cleanup spot), nobody seems to have a chance against the Trojans. You could ask the Soviets, if you don't believe the NCAA coaches.
Last summer, playing for the U.S. team at the Goodwill Games in Seattle, Ivie made quite an impression on the Soviet team. After the U.S. dropped its first game to the U.S.S.R. 8-15, Ivie was sent in with the U.S. trailing 4-13 in the second game. The Americans came back to win 15-13 and went on to beat one of the world's best teams in five games. "I saw that on TV," says the new U.S. team coach, Fred Sturm. "Very impressed, is all I can say." Sturm already has circled the date on his calendar when Ivie can join the national team in San Diego—"for the World League [games] in May, I hope," Sturm says.
Sturm will be happy to hear that Ivie continues to improve. After he won the Player of the Year award last season, McLaughlin congratulated him but told him he had better work on his blocking. "He couldn't get enough reps [in practice]," says McLaughlin. Now Ivie is in the top five in the nation in blocking. Still, Ivie is not perfect. "He doesn't dig exceptionally well, doesn't pass," says Scates. Then he laughs, as if he had just told you that Michelle Pfeiffer can't cook. "All he does is hit and block, control the net. Which is what wins games."
Ivie, who isn't that comfortable with the inevitable nickname of Poison (he is exceedingly quiet and mild-mannered for such a tag), basks in his success and looks ahead to the 1992 Olympics. And of course he dreams about his career as a professional. "I've got to envy those guys," he says of such Marine Avenue players as Mike Dodd, Brent Frohoff and Tim Hovland, "going down to the beach about 11 or 12 o'clock; playing games till 6 or 7; surfing between games—I still like to surf—and then on weekends going off to make some money [on the pro beach volleyball tour]. When some guys graduate, they have to get real jobs." The notion seems puzzling to him.
He even thinks ahead to the day when his brother can join him in the beach game, a two-man team of high-jumping, ball-slamming Ivies in a league all their own. Wait a minute. League...Ivies...Ivie League! But that's another story.