Irrespective of how this season seems, as UCLA heads into the house stretch and vies for an NCAA Match bid, what a whirlwind of a yr it’s been for Alfee Reft.
And in the course of all of it there was this one five-week stretch the place he alternated between his UCLA program and the USA girls’s nationwide crew because it ready for after which qualifiied for the Olympcs.
“It was essentially the most challening factor that I’ve completed professionally, however in all probability essentially the most rewarding and fulfilling,” Reft mentioned. “And I actually imply this, once you get to work with individuals like Karch and Tama (Miyashiro) and Erin (Advantage) and Marv (Dunphy) and coming right here to UCLA the place we’re constructing one thing so nice and have equally a fantastic workers,” he paused and laughed, “I strive to not take numerous time to consider the rigor of what we’re doing however there’s a lot function on the road it retains you going.
“So I haven’t thought quite a bit about what that was, you’re simply placing one foot in entrance of the opposite.”
Eleven months in the past, Reft capped a three-season run as an assistant at San Diego with that program’s first journey to the NCAA nationwide semifinals.
4 days later, he bought his first head-coaching job, taking up the storied UCLA program.
That was only the start.
Along with UCLA, Reft is one in all Karch Kiraly’s USA national-team assistants. He joined the USA program after the People gained gold in Tokyo. And all that entailed this yr was taking part in Volleyball Nations League (in Türkiye, Brazil, Korea and Arlington, Texas); the NORCECA Ladies’s Continental Championship in Quebec Metropolis, Canada; and, lastly, the FIVB Street to Paris Volleyball Qualifier in Lodz, Poland, at which the USA gained and certified for the 2024 Olympics.
Nevertheless it wasn’t that straightforward for Reft, who in the course of the NORCECA event missed UCLA matches, after which missed extra in the course of the qualifying event.
We visited with him final week in Pullman, Washington, earlier than the Bruins performed Washington State.
VNL led to on July 16, at which level Reft bought again to UCLA, six weeks earlier than the beginning of the NCAA season.
UCLA follow started in early August and on the identical the USA girls had been making ready for NORCECA.
Reft started his school profession at UC Santa Barbara and completed at Hawa’i, the place he was a standout libero for coach Carl McGown. He performed professionally for seven years, from Montegro to Portugal to France, and constructed up time as a participant and coach within the USA gymnasium on each the lads’s and ladies’s sides. Reft was an assistant at Minnesota underneath Hugh McCutcheon and for Chris Tamas at Illinois earlier than heading to San Diego and dealing for Jen Petrie.
“I used to be lucky sufficient to be round some nice leaders,” Reft mentioned. “Whilst I used to be taking part in I used to be all the time teaching. I used to be in it.”
So he was prepared for his first school head-coaching job.
The Bruins opened their season at LSU with back-to-back five-set outcomes, dropping the primary and successful the second. After a visit a couple of hours north to brush Northwestern State in Natchitoches, Louisiana, they headed dwelling for 2 matches at Lengthy Seashore State, the place they beat Indiana and the house crew. Reft, quite, headed to Quebec Metropolis for NORCECA, leaving UCLA to be coached by assistants Jen Malcom and Amir Lugo-Rodriguez.
The USA misplaced to the Dominican Republic within the NORCECA last.
“It was difficult. We misplaced that NORCECA event and put us again on the drafting board,” Reft mentioned. “It was difficult being per week out from the Olympic qualifier.”
Reft flew to Honolulu as UCLA went to Hawai’i and beat Pepperdine, Liberty and Hawai’i.
“And after that I went straight to Poland,” he mentioned. “It was a backwards and forwards for about 5 weeks.”
The USA girls dominated in Poland, clinching their spot in Paris on September 24. Throughout that event, UCLA misplaced at Oklahoma in 5, beat the Sooner in 4, misplaced in 5 to USC and bought swept at Oregon.
The USA was excellent within the qualifier, dropping solely to Poland, once more with a crew that was frequently utilizing totally different lineups.
“NORCECA confirmed us numerous issues we needed to get higher at actually shortly, or at the least who us how we needed to maneuver some items round, however we knew we had the items,” Reft mentioned.
“We bought to Poland and we felt good about our beginning seven and we knew we had a supporting solid that would actually assist us.”
The USA misplaced Micha Hancock on the final minute to a concussion, so Lauren Carlini dealt with the setting duties all through. Veteran Jordan Larson, star of the Tokyo Olympics who didn’t play VNL, was a welcome addition.
“I feel everybody performed their roles rather well, whether or not they had been initiators or sport changers, as Karch likes to name them. Everybody understood what their position was.”
Reft had his personal, each with the nationwide crew and UCLA.
“Once I took the job at UCLA I used to be actually clear with my administration about my loyalties and dedication to the USA program,”Reft mentioned. “And I used to be lucky that my supervisors and administration had been all in on that. There have been supportive. After which after I employed my workers that they had to have the ability to run the present and Jen and Amir have intensive expertise.”
Malcom, who performed at Syracuse and completed at Iowa State, coached at Virginia Tech, Tennessee and for the earlier 4 years again at Iowa State. Lugo-Rodriguez, who starred at Lengthy Seashore State, performed for the USA and was an assistant at Cal and the previous two years at Northwestern.
Their UCLA crew is 16-10 total, 8-8 within the Pac-12. Within the final NCAA RPI the Bruins had been ranked No. 42, however in Thursday’s up to date Figstats RPI, they had been as much as 38. However after that aforementioned loss at Oregon in late September, they had been 8-4, 0-2.
Now they’re coming off a three-match successful streak after beating last-place Arizona, successful in 5 at No. 12 Washington State and successful in 4 at Washington.
Senior Iman Ndiaye has stepped up in a giant manner and leads UCLA with 305 kills (3.08 kills/set). Three others are proper behind, sophomore Grayce Olson and (239 kills), sophomore Cheridyn Leverette (238 kills) and senior center Anna Dodson (214 kills, third within the Pac-12 in hitting proportion, .388), who leads with 121 blocks, 21 solo. Desiree Becker had 112 blocks, 15 solo, to go together with 136 kills. The firepower is definitely there and junior libero Peyton Dueck is greater than succesful. The setter is senior Audrey Pak, who’s averaging 7.14 assists, averages higher than a dig a set and has 61 blocks.
UCLA closes the common season with dwelling matches towards No. 2 Stanford and Cal earlier than going to Oregon State and USC.
“I feel our gamers have actually purchased in. Everybody talks about course of, however we had a good begin in the beginning of the yr, we hit a lull in the beginning of Pac, and that would have been a make-or-break time for us. We had some actual robust losses, however I feel the crew really believed,” Reft mentioned.
“I’m not a giant hope-as-a-strategy man, however they honestly believed that the work that they put in over a cumulative time was going to repay. Earlier than these final three weeks the crew was simply grinding within the gymnasium,” Reft mentioned. “I feel they’re cashing in on a cumulative work over prolonged time. However on the finish of the day we’ve got to execute towards some actually good groups down the stretch. However we’ve got the assumption.”