Jeff Nygaard did not always know that he would make a career out of volleyball. Named the head coach of the men’s volleyball program this past summer after five seasons as an assistant coach on former head coach Bill Ferguson’s staff, Nygaard did not grow up obsessing over the game. In fact, he only began to play volleyball in the fall of his freshman year of high school because his basketball coach required each member of the team to play another sport in the fall.“I was too tall for track, and I didn’t like football,” Nygaard, 6-foot-8, said. “So I played volleyball.”It turned out to be a good decision. Nygaard, who wound up winning three Olympic medals and two collegiate MVP awards in a long and successful career, quickly led his Robert M. La Follette High School squad to two state championships. Needless to say, Nygaard attracted attention from some volleyball powerhouses, including UCLA.He accepted the Bruins’ scholarship. It was just large enough that he could afford out-of-state tuition for one year. Nygaard admitted he did not know if he would be able to stay at UCLA for more than a year because finances were an issue. He was just grateful for the opportunity to play volleyball one more year, and he hustled on the court to increase his scholarship.“There was volleyball and school,” Nygaard said. “I wasn’t [at UCLA] to waste my family’s money.”The ’92 season went by and Nygaard improved enough to boost his sophomore scholarship. In ’93, he was co-Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament on the Bruins’ National Championship team. In ’94 and ’95, he repeated as National Player of the Year and in his senior year led UCLA to a 31-1 record and another National Championship. He finished second all-time at UCLA in kills (1,800) and blocks (658), fourth in aces (123) and 10th in digs (571). He is also first all-time in blocking average (1.88), second in kills per game (5.14) and third in kill percentage (.427).Nygaard attributes his collegiate success to his playing at the highest levels internationally. In 1991, he tried out for the Men’s Junior National Team and was cut within the first hour, but he improved so much that two years later, he showed up and was told he already had a spot on the team. After playing abroad with the juniors, Nygaard practiced with the National B Team.“The B Team was on one half of the gym and a curtain separated the A Team on the other half, and we were always looking over to see what they were doing,” Nygaard said. “One day someone got hurt or quit or something, and they walked over to our side and pointed at me and said, ‘You, come on, we need a middle.’”Thus began Nygaard’s eight-year career on the men’s national team, which included the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Olympics.Nygaard remembers exactly when he realized he could make a career out of volleyball. It was during his first tournament with the national team: the 1994 World Championships in Greece, where the team played 11 matches in 13 days.“It was game five versus Cuba that I finally broke through to that other side,” Nygaard said. “From that moment forward, my game blossomed.”Nygaard — just 22 at the time — was still awestruck by his teammates. He didn’t talk much, but as he was leaving the airport after the tournament, he received an unexpected compliment.“[USC Hall of Famer] Bryan Ivie of all people turned to me and said, ‘Hey Nygaard. Good job,’” Nygaard said. “Having Ivie — who I still think is the greatest player I’ve ever played with — tell me that let me know that I earned the right to compete at the next level.”In 1996, when Nygaard was in his prime, USA men’s volleyball finished a disappointing ninth, failing to qualify for the quarterfinals from Group A. In 2000, Nygaard had all kinds of ailments and only played one point for a US team that went 0-5 and tied for last with Egypt.“The non-glorified reality of [Sydney] is I had mono, jaundice, strep, fever, night sweats,” Nygaard said. “I was a mess. I got quarantined. [All] I needed was a Z-Pak — which is a steroid — so I couldn’t take it. I just kept getting more and more symptoms. I couldn’t eat for four days. [The doctors] tried to give me an IV, but I was so dehydrated they couldn’t find a vein. Yet, I was still practicing.”After Sydney, Nygaard had reached a fork in his career path. He was 28 — old for volleyball — and was not getting as much playing time. Furthermore, he had lost so much of his love of volleyball. In a word, he said he was “depressed.”And then his head coach Doug Beal called him into his office.“Thanks for your years, but you’re done here,” Beal said.The news devastated Nygaard, but it helped him move forward and toward the next phase.Nygaard moved back to California to contemplate an advanced degree and to transition into beach volleyball on the Association of Volleyball Professionals’ circuit.“Life was volleyball, volleyball, volleyball,” Nygaard said. “Not that I was fanatical about it. That’s just who I was. Beach opened up the fact that I actually loved playing again. I liked competing and training.”In his second year in the AVP, Nygaard won his first tournament — the 2002 Hermosa Beach Open — and was “hooked.” He became one of just three players since 1986 to win a title in one of his first 10 events.In 2003, he won an AVP-high three events, took in the most prize money and won AVP Most Valuable Player. He teamed up with gold-medalist Dain Blanton who had approached him about winning gold in Athens in 2004. Together they won AVP Team of the Year and two tournaments internationally (in the FIVB), but fell short of the podium in Greece (finishing 19th).“Of the three Olympics, that was the hardest one to earn,” Nygaard said. “It was an about-face, and I had to go all-in to make it.”Athens may have been the toughest, but all three Olympic experiences were special for Nygaard.“In 1996, we lost and our hearts were broken,” Nygaard said. “Some of the veterans put the loss [in perspective], and I realized realistically there are worse things. Two-thousand wasn’t storybook, but I obtained that goal [of making the team]. After 2004, it was way easier for me to detach [because of all I had learned].”Nygaard continued playing in the AVP through 2010, racking up more wins in 2004, 2005 and 2009. His seven career wins rank him 50th all-time. Around the same time, shoulder problems were holding him back and he was about ready to step away from the game as a player. So he considered coaching.“The longer you play, the more you end up mentoring the younger guys,” Nygaard said. “Then you just put yourself in those situations where you do end up coaching more and more. As you get older, the pool of the older wiser guys gets smaller and smaller. Eventually, you’re just it.”Nygaard had a lifetime of volleyball wherewithal and wanted to “give it its due.”“I had to try [coaching] for at least two or three years to see if I took to it,” Nygaard said. “I also saw far too many of my contemporaries finish volleyball and have nothing. I vowed to not be one of those guys. I had too many responsibilities — a mortgage, a wife, a kid — I was not about to just quit playing volleyball and have nothing.”The AVP was going bankrupt, Nygaard’s body was breaking down, and he was looking to coach — but he had no coaching experience. But perfect timing enabled Nygaard to wind up at USC as an assistant to Bill Ferguson.“I told Bill if someone was to offer me a job here and now, I would take it without a second’s hesitation,” Nygaard said.Indeed, Ferguson gave him an interview and subsequently the job. Hence began Nygaard’s sojourn into coaching.Nygaard has only played volleyball five times since he retired. He doesn’t miss it.“I’ve mentally decided not to do it,” Nygaard said. “I’ve got three kids and a wife and a demanding job. I don’t see very many windows for me to compete and have fun, nor do I make those opportunities available. There is laundry to do, food to be cooked, dishes to be cleaned, the yard to mow and recruiting opportunities. I’m all in with this.”The people he has met and his accomplishments throughout his career is enveloped in his coaching methodology.“I think I am a collaboration and collection of everyone who taught me the game,” Nygaard said. “Even if the coach was terrible, that guy still somehow taught me patience.”Nygaard also has quotes from Doc Rivers and John Wooden hanging in his office, but his main role model was UCLA Hall of Famer Al Scates.“Scates didn’t deal in emotions,” Nygaard said. “He just expected you to compete.”Nygaard’s style is similar: “dry and point blank.” If something needs to get done in practice or in game, Nygaard tells it to his players straight. He expects accountability and communication from his players and wants to foster those values in the volleyball program.This season, his first at the helm, both accountability and communication have been operating “around 10 percent” of what he wants to build in his program.“This year, we’ve simplified a lot of the messages and made them digestible,” Nygaard said. “Now, we’re competing at an acceptable level.”As a first-year head coach, Nygaard’s thinking about his team and his program has had to change a lot throughout the course of the year. USC started ranked No. 12 nationally but quickly exited the NCAA poll for the first time since 2013. The rest of the year has been rockier. The team has two matches remaining at No. 1 BYU and a 7-17, 5-15 MPSF record to date. No one expected the Trojans to perform this poorly, and the swing of emotions has certainly made an impact on the head coach.“I don’t think I’ve grown more in a year in my life, or experienced the human condition — the spectrum of emotion, feelings and experiences — on such a deep level every single way that I could imagine,” Nygaard said. “I can take one look at most of the guys on the team and know exactly where they are.”He acknowledges that his style is different than Ferguson’s, and because of that, the program is in transition. However, by implementing a culture that “sustains accountability and communication,” Nygaard wants to recreate national championships for USC — a school with a tremendous volleyball legacy, including four national titles, but none since 1990.“USC demands excellence [and] I have always expected to win every match of my career,” Nygaard said. “I do believe that we can recreate a winning culture here. There’s momentum, energy, untapped potential.”In doing so, Nygaard would be adding to the long and storied legacy of USC athletics.“There’s a long path ahead of us,” Nygaard said, before pointing at a “Fight On!” lettering hanging over his head on his office wall. “But with the powers that be at ’SC, it’s definitely possible.” read more
Paul Pogba has extended his contract at Juventus until 2019, the club has confirmed, snubbing interest fromReal Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.The France international has blossomed into one of the highest-rated central midfielders in Europe since he left Manchester United for Turin two years ago.His performances under Antonio Conte – and now Massimiliano Allegri – had reportedly caught the eye of the likes of PSG and Madrid in the past, but Juve have moved to tie down the 21-year-old for a further three years.Club CEO Giuseppe Marotta told shareholders at Friday’s meeting: “This morning we agreed on the renewal of Paul Pogba, who will be tied to Juventus until 2019.” read more
The University of Pittsburgh dance team performson Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)ODU quarterback Taylor Heinicke threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns but couldn’t lead the Monarchs to their first win over a Bowl Championship Series opponent. ODU cut an 18-point deficit to four late in the third quarter, but Savage’s 5-yard touchdown run gave Pitt enough cushion to survive.It was hardly pretty on a night as the teams combined for 24 penalties and 221 penalty yards.The Monarchs are in the midst of transitioning from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision. They’ll be in Conference USA next fall, a leap the school insists it’s ready to make even though the program didn’t even exist five years ago.For long stretches on Saturday, it certainly looked like it.Pitt appeared to be firmly in control when Savage hit Manasseh Garner for a 21-yard touchdown that gave the Panthers a 28-10 lead. The Monarchs rallied behind Heinicke. The reigning Walter Payton Award winner — given annually to the best player in the FCS — found Blair Roberts for a 47-yard score to make it 28-17.ODU executed a perfect onside kick, with kicker Jarod Brown falling on the ball after it rolled the required 10 yards. Five plays later Antonio Vaughn sprinted into the end zone to pull the Monarchs within 28-24 with 4:35 left in the third quarter.The Panthers, however, steadied themselves behind Savage. The senior endured eight sacks in a loss to Virginia Tech last week and while he was hardly crisp — completing 11 of 18 passes — he did enough to lead Pitt on a five-play, 47-yard touchdown drive. He covered the final 5 yards himself, spinning between two defenders for his second rushing touchdown in as many weeks.It was a score the Panthers needed.ODU raced to a quick 10-0 lead behind Heinicke, who hit Marquel Thomas with a 15-yard touchdown pass to put the Monarchs in front. Brown then drilled a 54-yard field goal through the notoriously tricky winds at Heinz Field, the longest kick in the stadium’s 12-year history.The beginning was eerily similar to Pitt’s humbling 31-17 loss to FCS-member Youngstown State in Paul Chryst’s head coaching debut last year. The ending, however, was different.Rather than panic or press, the Panthers turned to Bennett. The junior appeared to have lost any shot at grabbing the starting spot earlier in the season after James Conner’s hot start. Conner, however, struggled in recent weeks and was limited in practice all week due to a shoulder injury sustained in last week’s loss to Virginia Tech. Conner dressed but spent the entire night on the sideline watching Bennett go to work.Bennett bolted up the middle for a 25-yard touchdown to get Pitt on the board early in the second quarter. A 56-yard punt return by Kevin Weatherspoon set up a 3-yard burst to give the Panthers the lead with 7:40 remaining in the half. Working behind a line that made sure he was rarely touched until he was into the secondary, Bennett put Pitt firmly in control late in the half, capping a 63-yard drive by darting up the middle for a 16-yard touchdown to make it 21-10 at the break.___Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP PITTSBURGH (AP) — Isaac Bennett ran for a career-high 240 yards and three touchdowns as Pittsburgh held off Old Dominion 35-24 on Saturday night.The Panthers (4-2) overcame an early 10-point deficit behind Bennett. Making his first start of the season, Bennett scored three times in a 12-minute span in the second quarter. Quarterback Tom Savage passed for 104 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a score as Pitt finally shook the Monarchs (4-3) late. Isaac Bennett (34) celebrates with wide receiver Ed Tinker (84) after scoring his third touchdown of the second quarter against Old Dominion on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) by Will GravesAP Sports Writer read more
Jackie Chapin came away as the big winner at the annual Ted Allen’s Ladies Golf Tournament held recently at the Granite Pointe at Nelson course.Chapin was crowned champ through retrogression, edging out Veronica Jones both with net 66 scores.Other scores included Corinne Scheldrup with a net 67, Susan Rowe with a net 68, Michelle Palm with a net 69 and Bev Stevens with a net 70.
16 September 2020
16 September 2020
16 September 2020
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