Augusta Prep's Bland honored at UCLA national championship ceremony

Augusta Prep Middle School history teacher and longtime volleyball coach Rich Bland was honored this past weekend in Los Angeles as part of the 30th anniversary celebration of UCLA winning the 1993 men's volleyball national championship.
"It was great to get back together with the guys, some of whom I haven't seen in 30 years," said the 6-foot-5 Bland, who was one of the shorter players on his championship team that included players who are 6-7, 6-8 and 6-10. "We talked about old stories and relived old times. It was nice to experience that shared accomplishment of a team championship."

Bland and his fellow seniors entered the 1992-93 season with some pressure. Bland a middle blocker his senior season after starting his collegiate career as an outside hitter, was part of a class that had yet to win a national title. Since UCLA won its first NCAA Championship in 1970, no four-year senior had ever left school without a title.

That season, UCLA notched a big win over No. 1 Pepperdine early in the year and later went onto to win the conference championship. In the NCAA semifinals, the Bruins routed Ohio State in three sets. UCLA then defeated Cal State Northridge in three sets on its home floor, Pauley Pavilion, for its 14th national title.

"As the year went on, we just got stronger and stronger. Some of the younger guys stepped up as the year went on," Bland said. "It was a wonderful experience, especially winning it on your home floor."

Bland said his current Middle School students and varsity volleyball players know very little about him being one of the top volleyball recruits in the nation when he graduated in 1988 in Buffalo, N.Y. Nor do they know much about him being part of a national championship tradition at UCLA.

"To a teenager in 2023," he said, "that was a lifetime ago." 
Augusta Preparatory Day School is an independent, college preparatory school serving children ages 2 through Grade 12 from the greater Augusta-Aiken area. Augusta Prep seeks to enroll a group of diverse students. We follow an open admission policy, whereby qualified candidates are admitted without regard to religion, race, nationality, economic background, or ethnic origin.