With seven national titles, seven state championships, and 17 conference championships, the SMC men’s volleyball team has one of the best records in the nation and has vastly exceeded athletic expectations for a community college.

The team has been spiking, acing, and digging its way to success for 60 years, with the majority of its notable victories taking place in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. 

Liran Zamir was thrilled to take over as head coach in Dec. 2020 and approached the position with great zeal. Unfortunately, the pandemic put an end to the 2020 season and precluded the possibility of a 2021 season. 

This year, Zamir is more determined than ever and has been hard at work developing a strategy to propel the team to championship success. Part of this has been compiling a document on the team’s history in order to better understand its legacy and help recruit talented new players. 

“In order to focus on the present and have a better idea of the future, you have to understand the past,” said Zamir. “Having this head coach position at Santa Monica College, that is what I want to do; I want to research and see the history in order to build the future.”

There certainly is plenty of glory to dig into, starting in the sixties when the team was among the best in America and won five national championships.

During this time the SMC produced numerous star players, including Butch May who went on to play on the 1968 American Olympic volleyball team. May also happens to be the father of three-time Olympic beach volleyball player Misty May-Treanor, who grew up in Santa Monica and is the second most successful female beach volleyball player in the world with 112 championship victories to her name. 

The team has had a star studded line-up and over its history has sent 2 coaches and 10 players to the Olympics.

When the NCAA was created in 1970, SMC was excluded from joining because it is a two-year college. Yet, despite its community college status, the SMC team had consistently been beating four-year volleyball powerhouses including Stanford, USC and UCLA. 

When the USVBA temporarily ran national championships for two-year universities and unaffiliated four-year universities, SMC scooped two more national titles in 1971 and 1972. From the late 70s through to today, SMC has competed within the state and won 17 conference championships and 7 state championships. 

Although victories fell off during the 1990s and 2000s, the team was able to comeback with conference championships in 2005 and 2008 in addition to a notable state championship in 2015. 

“It is hard to put a finger on one specific thing that made this program so successful,” said Zamir. “It’s a combination of things: the location, the historic reputation of beach volleyball in Santa Monica, our great facilities and the strong talent pool in local high schools.”

Having stepped into the head coach position in Dec. 2020, Zamir is eager to make his contribution to the team’s legacy and return them to championship status. One of the challenges of heading a community college team is that you cannot recruit players with athletic scholarships, so Zamir has been hard at work educating local players about the many benefits that can be reaped at SMC. 

“One of the reasons I built this document of the team’s history is for recruiting, because I wanted to show how great the program is, our rich history, the great players and coaches that have been through the program and so on,” said Zamir. “I managed to recruit some talented players, some talented players reached out to me and we have some good returners. I believe we’re going to do great things this year.”

This year’s team will be practicing indoors in masks after being limited to Zoom workouts last academic year. The plan is to compete in all competitions and shoot for an eighth state title. Zamir is working to form a strong team spirit and ensure the players are representing Santa Monica well.

“It is very important for us in the program to behave in such a way that they will remember us for being from Santa Monica,” said Zamir. “We want to be the best in the nation again and we’re going to start building up from here, so when people say Santa Monica they know what’s coming.”

Clara@smdp.com