High-SchoolVolleyball: Mira Costa

FAB 50Courtesy of Wheaton Warrenville SouthWheaton Warrenville South capped its undefeated season with a state championship.
Mark Tennis and Kirstin Olsen

The New Jersey Tournament of Champions concluded on Thursday night, and all 50 positions in the final POWERADE FAB 50 for the 2012 boys' volleyball season have been locked up.

With the final rankings also comes the official announcement that the mythical national champion is Wheaton Warrenville South (Wheaton, Ill.).

It was considered seriously to move up No. 2 Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) due to an advantage in strength of schedule, but it wasn't so much of an advantage that a team should be dropped after already sitting in the No. 1 position.

Wheaton Warrenville South becomes the first Illinois team to end the season No. 1 in the nation in boys' volleyball, and it could be the best team in state history. The Tigers completed their perfect run with a 25-21, 25-13 triumph over Glenbrook North (Northbrook, Ill.) in last Saturday's state championship.

While coach Bill Schreier's squad has never finished 42-0 before, the school has had two previous unbeaten state champions, and on Saturday won its seventh state crown overall.

In the New Jersey final, Fair Lawn defeated previous FAB 50 No. 33 Southern Regional (Manahawkin, N.J.) and moves into the final rankings. Southern Regional stays, too, due to having two previous wins over Fair Lawn.

Click here for the final rankings of the 2012 season.
By Mark Tennis and Kirstin Olsen

Mira Costa Boys VolleyballKirstin OlsenMira Costa survived an epic five-set match against Oak Park and remains No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings.

The CIF Southern California regional championships are in the books from last weekend, and two teams clinched at least No. 2 and No. 3 final rankings in this year's FAB 50.

No. 2 Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) was looking for a rematch after going 1-1 with previous No. 3 Westview (San Diego, Calif.). The Mustangs didn't get an opportunity for that because the Wolverines were upset by late-season powerhouse Oak Park (Agoura Hills, Calif.). But Mira Costa certainly was tested in Saturday's Division II final.

Oak Park and Mira Costa, in fact, traded seven match points in a marathon five-set contest. The Mustangs were down in the fifth set 14-12 but, after fighting off four match points, prevailed 24-26, 25-16, 25-19, 24-26, 20-18.

A valiant effort from Oak Park senior outside hitters Justin Parks (23 kills) and Bradley Sakaida (16 kills) was matched by Costa senior outside hitter Chris Orenic (33 kills). Scott Stephanoff (12 kills) also stepped up his game late in the match.

No. 3 Loyola, meanwhile, wanted to turn around a loss to No. 4 Otay Ranch (Chula Vista, Calif.) from last month's Redondo Power Classic in the Division I SoCal final. The Cubs did just that with a 25-20, 25-19, 25-14 win. They were without senior outside hitter Nick Porterfield with a sprained ankle, but senior outside hitter Alex Slaught came up big with 17 kills.

Click here for the complete Week 11 rankings.
Wheaton Warrenville SouthConrad CasteloWith a perfect record and a strong showing by other Illinois teams, Wheaton Warrenville South (Wheaton, Ill.) takes over the top spot in the FAB 50 rankings.

Although Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), the CIF Southern Section Division I champion, has a strong argument to be the new No. 1 team in the POWERADE FAB 50, the choice this week instead has gone to unbeaten Wheaton Warrenville South (Wheaton, Ill.).

Coach Bill Schreier's team improved to 36-0 on Tuesday night with an easy win over St. Francis (Wheaton, Ill.) in the regional round of the state playoffs. The Tigers have been No. 1 in Illinois since the start of the season and have not slipped in a single match.

Also helping Wheaton Warrenville South in the rankings is the performance of teams from Illinois in general against other top teams from other states, including a win by No. 11 Lincoln-Way East (Frankfort, Ill.) over No. 14 Buchanan (Clovis, Calif.).

If Mira Costa only had two losses on the season instead of four, or if the Mustangs had been completely healthy all season, then they'd probably not have dropped behind the Tigers earlier.

One of the reasons Mira Costa was seriously considered to jump past Wheaton Warrenville South is that the Mustangs beat previous No. 1 Loyola (Los Angeles) 25-19, 25-22, 25-27, 21-25, 15-12 in last Saturday's CIF Southern Section Division I finals.

It was Mira Costa's first CIFSS title since 2008. Setter Jackson Carr had 58 assists and 10 blocks while outside hitter Chris Orenic had 24 kills and 10 digs.

Click here for the complete Week 10 rankings.
Loyola VolleyballVbshots.comLoyola (Los Angeles) has a few more hurdles to clear if it wants to claim the mythical national title.

California's sectional playoffs are just about wrapped up, which means it could be one giant hurdle cleared by No. 1 Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.) in its quest to be the mythical national champion.

The Cubs got past No. 6 Servite (Anaheim, Calif.) in Tuesday's semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs with a three-set sweep and will meet No. 3 Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) in Saturday's championship.

To hold off unbeaten Wheaton Warrenville South (Wheaton, Ill.), Loyola needs to win that title and then follow it up with a title in the CIF Southern California regional championships.

State championships in Florida and Arizona are now complete with Missouri on track to complete its championships this weekend.

Click here for the complete Week 9 rankings.
FAB 50Kirstin Olsen/ESPNHSOtay Ranch knocked off No. 1 Loyola at the Redondo Varsity Classic and moves up to No. 6 in this week's FAB 50.
By Mark Tennis and Kirstin Olsen

The Redondo Varsity Classic offered an opportunity for some major upsets last weekend with nine POWERADE FAB 50 teams participating from San Diego to the San Fernando Valley.

There were upsets, including one of the biggest of the season, when No. 1 Loyola (Los Angeles) was toppled in the semifinals by Otay Ranch (San Diego). The event was won by Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach.

Mira Costa, with USC commit Chris Orenic playing for the first time this season after rehabbing an injury, avenged an earlier loss to Westview (San Diego) in the semifinals and then defeated Otay Ranch 25-21, 25-21 in the final. Senior setter and George Mason commit Jackson Carr had 28 assists in the championship match.

Due to the tourney title, Mira Costa inched up from No. 4 to No. 3 in this week's rankings. While the team did lose to former No. 3 Esperanza (Anaheim) earlier in the season, that was prior to Orenic's return.

The more difficult decision was whether to keep Loyola at No. 1 or move up No. 2 Wheaten Warrenville South. Since Loyola still has a win over Mira Costa and could avenge its only loss later in the Southern California regional playoffs, the Cubs stayed in the top spot.

Loyola also will have to deal not only with Mira Costa and Esperanza in the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs, but other top-ranked squads as well. Its strength of schedule would still trump Wheaton Warrenville South if both teams win out, but with one more loss for Loyola, an unbeaten Wheaton Warrenville South would get the edge.

Click here for the complete Week 7 rankings.
By Mark Tennis and Kirstin Olsen

Punahou VolleyballEd ChanPunahou clinched a division title last week and remains in the top 10 of the POWERADE FAB 50.

League championship tournaments this week in Hawaii will be followed by the start of state playoffs next week, but in other states there are still a handful of major tournaments to be played.

In Southern California, the Redondo Varsity Classic will provide an opportunity for nine FAB 50 teams to square off.

No. 1 Loyola (Los Angeles), No. 4 Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach), No. 7 Westview (San Diego), No. 8 Otay Ranch (Chula Vista), No. 10 Dana Hills (Dana Point), No. 11 San Clemente, No. 12 Oak Park (Agoura Hills), No. 13 Westlake (Westlake Village) and No. 50 host Redondo Union (Redondo Beach) will all get together this weekend at the loaded tournament.

Since many of the teams also will be in the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs, the Redondo tourney could be more important in the rankings to Westview and Otay Ranch, the two CIF San Diego Section schools.

This week's biggest mover in the rankings is new No. 15 De La Salle (Concord, Calif.). The Spartans went unbeaten at the Bellarmine Prep tourney in San Jose (Calif.), topping Clovis West (Fresno, Calif.) in the championship match 25-18, 25-19. They went from No. 32 to No. 15 in this week's FAB 50.

Click here for the complete Week 6 rankings.
By Mark Tennis and Kirstin Olsen

EsperanzaTom HauckEsperanza (Anaheim, Calif.) claimed the title at the Karch Kiraly Tournament of Champions and moves up to No. 3 in the FAB 50 rankings.

The Karch Kiraly Tournament of Champions last weekend in Santa Barbara, Calif., offered the possibilities for some upsets in a match-style tournament, and it did not disappoint.

Previous FAB 50 No. 6 Esperanza (Anaheim, Calif.) dominated the field with some spirited play and ended its trip with a huge win over previous No. 2 Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) in the final.

The Aztecs defeated the Mustangs 25-23, 25-20, 25-23 and finished the weekend 4-0. Sophomore opposite Jake Arnitz led the way with 53 kills in the tournament. He had 17 in the final and added five blocks.

Since Esperanza is not a solid No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section behind FAB 50 No. 1 Loyola of Los Angeles - the Aztecs are not top-ranked in the Orange County Register's poll - that helped clear the way for unbeaten Wheaton Warrenville South (Wheaton, Ill.) to grab the No. 2 ranking in this week's FAB 50.

Wheaton Warrenville South could still get hopped at some point by a top California team, but if the Tigers were to finish unbeaten and win a state title, its chances of being the FAB 50 mythical champion are better this week than before.

Click here for the complete Week 5 rankings.
By Mark Tennis and Kirstin Olsen

With the majority of schools in Southern California on spring break for much of this week and last week, many teams in the POWERADE FAB 50 were idle since the last rankings were compiled.

There was some shuffling at the top of the order, however, after Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) went to the Clash of the Titans in Hawaii and prevailed in matches over two FAB 50 teams from the islands, including one win against previous No. 2 Punahou.

The Mustangs, who also topped Hawaii Baptist during the trip, moved up to No. 2 from No. 4 in this week's rankings. Punahou slipped to No. 5 behind No. 3 Wheaton Warrenville South (Wheaton, Ill.) and new No. 4 Servite (Anaheim, Calif.).

This weekend, 16 teams will play in the Karch Kiraly Tournament of Champions at Santa Barbara (Calif.). Mira Costa, Buchanan (Clovis, Calif.), Santa Margarita (Rancho SM, Calif.), Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.), Thousand Oaks (Calif.) and Esperanza (Anaheim, Calif.) will all be among those competing.

Click here for the complete Week 4 rankings.
By Jed Stotsenberg

The boys’ high school volleyball season got into full swing this weekend at the 6th Annual Best of the West boys' high school volleyball tournament in San Diego, Calif. The tournament was a true showcase of what to expect from the top teams for the 2012 season. Click here to browse our gallery of 215 photos.

Here are 10 players who stood out this weekend:

Andrew Benz | Esperanza (Anaheim, Calif.)
The 6-foot-6 senior middle was dominating, up early and crushing the angles all tournament while also taking over with his block. Benz is committed to UC Irvine.

Jonah Seif
Ed Chan/ESPNHSThousand Oaks setter Jonah Seif ran a solid offense and scored points with his jump serve at the Best of the West.
Michael Mullahey | Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.)
The 6-5 senior setter was a man among boys, delivering the offense and helping Loyola win the Best of the West title. Mullahey picked apart his opponents' block, isolating hitters all tournament while doing his fair share point scoring with a solid block and deceptive dumps. Mullahey will be a Trojan next year contributing to a strong USC volleyball program.

Kyle Palmer | Servite (Anaheim, Calif.)
The 6-7 senior middle was a huge part of his team pulling off numerous upsets. Servite started as the 12 seed and advanced through to the finals. All tournament he was a horse, getting up big and bombing the angles while completely neutralizing the opponents' offense with his block. Palmer is committed to UCLA.

Edgar Palos | Huntington Beach (Calif.)
This 6-foot senior outside hitter gets it done, bringing solid serve receive, smooth controlled defense, high and hard swings while scoring big with his jump serve. He is fun to watch. Palos is committed to Long Beach State.

Nick Porterfield | Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.)

The 6-3 senior outside hitter set himself apart from the pack, earning the Best of the West MVP and helping his team win the tournament. All weekend he passed well and abused his opponents' right-side block with true hitting range and thunder. Porterfield will be attending UCLA next year.

Kevin Rakestraw | Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.)
This 6-11 junior middle is not just big but athletic. He can run a plethora of attacks all along the net, including a back slide that was almost impossible to stop. As a blocker, he is efficient closing laterally, which is rare for players his size at this age. Rakestraw is uncommitted and will have his choice of top college programs to choose from when he's ready.

Jonah Seif | Thousand Oaks (Calif.)
This 6-8 senior setter is a point scoring machine, shutting down the left-side attack with his block and picking off passers at will with his jump serve. He also was quick to the ball and ran a solid offense, feeding his middles as much as possible and isolating his pins. Seif is committed to UCSB next year.

Larry Tuileta | Punahou (Honolulu, Hawaii)
The 6-2 sophomore outside hitter was on fire, helping his team to a third-place finish with solid passing and phenomenal defense. One of the top plays of the weekend was a full-speed hit he took off his chest in the semifinal against Loyola that carried over the net and landed left back over the whole team without anybody touching it to tie the game. Offensively he has an extremely high volleyball IQ, bringing out not only the heat but the tips, chops and swipes, which embarrassed opponents' defensive systems all tournament. Tuileta is uncommitted but will have many opportunities to play at the next level.

Brooks Varni | Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.)

The 6-2 senior libero was spectacular and a true leader. He passed well all weekend, set in transition off the setter dig, took 75 percent of the court on free balls, dug balls and provided fire with confidence for his team when needed. Varni is committed to USC next year.

Lucas Yoder | San Clemente (Calif.)
This 6-4 junior outside hitter put in some serious work helping his team to a third-place finish. He passed with precision, brought the heat on the left and out of the back row while competing hard the whole time. He has yet to choose college.

Other notables

Bennett Bird, Westview (San Diego, Calif.), 12, 6-6, OH, BYU
Gabriel Vega, Iolani (Honolulu, Hawaii), 12, 6-7, OH, Stanford
Justin Parks, Oak Park (Calif), 12, 6-4, OH, Pepperdine
Kyle Suppes, Bellarmine (San Jose, Calif.), 12, 6-8, MB, Pepperdine
Parker Boehle, Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.), 12, 5-8, LIB, UCSB
Alex Slaught, Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.), 12, 6-4, OH, USC
Driss Guessous, Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.), 12, 6-7, MB, Ohio State
Sam Hunt, Servite (Anaheim, Calif.), 12, 6-6, MB , Air Force Football
Sean Gruebner, Punahou (Honolulu, Hawaii), 12, 6-2, OH, Uncommitted
Jack Yoder, San Clemente (Calif.), 11, 6-3 ,S Unsigned
Aidan Crockett, Bellarmine (San Jose, Calif.),, 12, 6-3, OH, Ohio State
Parker Brown, Corona del Mar (Newport Beach, Calif.), 12, 6-3, OH Ohio State
Jacob Delson, Westlake (Westlake Village, Calif.), 12, 6-5, OH, UCSB
Zack Gates, Huntington Beach (Calif.), 11, 6-6, Opp, Unsigned
Cole Fiers, Palos Verdes (Calif.), 11, 6-3, S, Uncommitted
Jack Hughson, Poway, 12, 6-6, S/RS, UCLA
Darren Sorrell, Esperanza (Anaheim, Calif.), 12, 6-9, MB, Hawaii
Madison Hayden, Servite (Anaheim, Calif.), 12, 6-3, OH, Stanford
Tim Favreau, Servite (Anaheim, Calif.), 12, 6-1, S, Princeton
high schoolESPNHSWith good players, loud fans and rich traditions, some gyms turn into haunted houses for visiting teams. From top left, Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), Venice (Fla.), Avon (Ind.) and Santa Barbara (Calif.) make our list of 13 scary places to visit.
By Walter Villa

A small, cozy gym. Loud, raucous fans. A big, bad volleyball team. Combine all three elements, and you get the kind of place most teams don’t want to visit after dark.

Today, in honor of Halloween, we present some of the nation’s scariest places to play girls’ volleyball – gyms that have become Houses of Horrors for opponents.

We’ve picked 13 sites that are usually unlucky for visiting teams, and since different schools made our list for different reasons, let’s break it down based on categories:

‘CRAZY’ FANS

Avon (Ind.)

All aboard! Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaa!

Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay …

Crazy, but that how it goes at Avon volleyball matches.

Surely Ozzy Osbourne would love Avon’s student cheering section, called the Jersey Junkies. They have more than 70 “cheers,” some of which are designed to distract the opposition.

Case in point: When a rival player prepares to serve, the Junkies mimic her every movement, calling out, for example, “Bounce, bounce, bounce, spin!” Then they all scream when she finally tosses the ball up for her serve.

Bishop Verot (Fort Myers, Fla.)

Between the fans and the pulsating music, it gets so loud at Bishop Verot that opposing coaches have been known to take their teams outside the gym during timeouts just so their instructions can be heard.

Ironwood Ridge (Oro Valley, Ariz.)

The students all wear No. 7 jerseys to symbolize the seventh man on the court. With room for only 450 fans, the gym is usually full. And together with a modern sound system, they bring the noise. The best thing about this place is that an auxiliary gym was converted into a volleyball-only facility, a rarity at the high school level.

Joliet Catholic Academy (Joliet, Ill.)

On Pac-Man night, all the students come dressed in black … except four who show up as the “ghosts” and one who is “Pac-Man,” And from there, the fun ensues.

TRADITION RICH

Burris Laboratory (Muncie, Ind.)

Ball Gym is a special place, and Burris Lab is a special program. Until losing on the road at Wapahani (Selma, Ind.) earlier this month, Burris Lab had won 14 straight state titles. They had also won 95 consecutive playoff matches, many of them at home at Ball Gym.

“It’s an intimidating place for an opponent,” Wapahani coach Mike Lingenfelter said. “You can’t move in that gym without brushing up against one of their national title banners or (22) state title banners. It’s a real confined space, and the fans are right on top of you.”

Palo Alto (Calif.)

Welcome to volleyball, old-school style. The high school, founded in 1898, is one of the oldest in the region. The gym dates back to the 1930s, and fans sit up above in a balcony-style setting. It can get rowdy, especially when Palo Alto is rolling – and, lately, that’s most of the time. The Vikings went unbeaten last year and defeated Long Beach Poly to win the CIF Division I state title.

Fowler (Colo.)

The Grizzlies’ rich tradition includes 13 state titles, and they are tough to beat at home. In fact, they haven’t lost there in four years. It’s a small school (Class 2A) with a small gym. “Our low ceiling teaches us to have great ball control,” Fowler coach Sandy Moss said. “We consider that our seventh man.”

Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.)

Fisher Gym has seen tons of great volleyball over the years. Mira Costa has won seven state titles, including its most recent crown in 2007. Only two California schools have won more titles, and that mystique is evident when you walk into the gym that has produced scores of pro volleyball players.

Kamehameha (Honolulu, Hawaii)

Coach Chris Blake said fans at his school’s games routinely paint their faces. That can be an intimidating sight for opponents, who also have to deal with a Kamehameha program that has won 18 state titles since 1969.

Santa Barbara (Calif.)

Established in 1875, this is one of the oldest high schools in California. But its real claim to fame is that it is the alma mater of volleyball legend Karch Kiraly.

IT’S FAN-TASTIC

Venice (Venice, Fla.)

Indians coach Brian Wheatley has patterned his program after the University of Nebraska and makes every home game fan friendly. The cheering section is called “The Wheatley Wackos,” and “Fans of the Week” get to sit on leather couches on the sideline.

“We have a smoke machine,” Wheatley said, “and fans come out dressed as Indians.”

The fun atmosphere is helped by the fact that the Indians have lost only three matches in the past 10 years inside the 1,500-seat TeePee the nickname for their gym. From 2001 to 2009, they didn’t lose there at all.

Since Venice is located on an island, even the bus trip to play Venice is scary as teams have to negotiate three bridges to get there. The team has also been virtually adopted by the city’s large retirement community.

“We get tons of community support,” Wheatley said. “Our girls have been known to sign autographs at the grocery store. That’s how crazy it is.”

Chaparral (Parker, Colo.)

The team’s student section, usually about 200 strong, stands and cheers the entire game. The Wolverines rarely lose at home – they are 33-1 at home the past three years.

Aside from their winning ways, the Wolverines make it fun for their fans by staging contests galore. For example, during timeouts, six pizza boxes are put on different spots on the court. A couple-dozen fans then line up to try to hit one of the boxes – on the fly -- with a serve. If they do, free pizza for the fan!

Snow Canyon (St. George, Utah)

Snow Canyon’s fans are called “Warrior Nation,” and they are passionate. The students love theme nights such as “Super Hero Night” and “Retro Night.” Snow Canyon administrators reward students with gift certificates to local restaurants for the best and most original costumes.

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