Ricci Luyties 

Class of 2015
Active: 1983 - 2001
7 Open Victories

 

If God set out to build the perfect beach volleyball player Ricci Luyties would not doubt be the prototype. 6 feet five inches tall, an intimidating blocker with a perfect setting touch, chiseled physique and movie star good looks. Nobody played the part better than Luyties.

Ricci began his volleyball career as an indoor star, first at Pacific Palisades High School where he followed in the footsteps of legends such as Dane Selznick and Randy Stoklos, then on to UCLA where all he did was win a national championship all four years there. In two of those years, Ricci’s teams did not drop a match. Luyties was a two time-all American, two-time Player-of-the-Year and NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player of the Year. He was inducted into the UCLA Hall of Fame and his jersey hangs from the rafters at Pauley Pavilion.

After UCLA, Ricci joined the USA indoor national team, winning a gold medal in the 1988 Olympics.

His beach career began while he was still competing on the hard court. He first achieved success in the early 1980s playing with Steve Obradovich. Despite the contrast between the soft-spoken and mellow Luyties and the volatile OB, the pair had a great run from 1983 through 1985 with a bunch of top five finishes on tour.

Ricci then teamed up with former Bruin teammate Karch Kiraly. Both Ricci and Karch were committed to the National Team at that time, but in-between National team commitments they would take their skills to the sand. In 1988, the same summer as the Olympics in Seoul, Karch and Ricci won the Manhattan Open. Not a bad summer: a gold medal and a Manhattan Open title.

After retiring from the National Team, Ricci competed full-time on the tour for the next thirteen years. He partnered with all of the great players of his era: Dodd, Stoklos, Ayakatuby, Jon Stevenson, Pat Powers, Brian Lewis and many others. He had his best success with Adam Johnson, winning the three Opens, including the 1991 U.S. Championships right here in Hermosa Open, and he enjoyed a long partnership with Brent Frohoff which included victories at Milwaukee and a memorable and lucrative win at the 1992 Cuervo tournament in Santa Cruz.

Ricci in many ways set the standard for the wave of big blockers that would follow. As the rule changed in the 1980s to allow blocking over, he used his long wing-span and impeccable blocking technique to create an often-impenetrable wall, creating easy points for his team. He combined this intimidating presence at the net with one of the sweetest setting touches the sport has ever seen.

And he did all of this while remaining one of the nicest and most laid back guys on tour, universally admired and respected by everyone he competed against.

After leaving the tour in 2001, Ricci established himself as successful indoor coach and currently is the head coach at UC San Diego.

 

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Mike Dodd