The sport of volleyball is having a golden age in Long Beach with the local NCAA juggernaut playing in the Walter Pyramid, but high school boys’ volleyball is looking up too. It should be an exciting year in Long Beach with a defending CIF Champion and others looking to improve after a short spring season.
Wilson is coming off a memorable year while Poly and Millikan will look to knock off the reigning champs.
Rams coach Matt Johnson said he is “excited” about this year’s team.
“We have tremendous potential and high expectations,” Johnson said.
The Rams return All-League first team honoree Tommy Halligan (senior) and two second teamers in Bryce Martinez (junior) and Shane Sanders (senior). Halligan and Martinez are both outside hitters and Johnson is excited about the potential of freshman Jackson Cryst.
Other names to watch are Dylan Worden (junior middle blocker) and Logan Karkanen (sophomore setter).
“All in all, I feel confident that we have a deep team with lots of talent and experience coupled with a strong desire to finish and win matches,” Johnson said.
After not competing last year, the Panthers return in 2022 and will be young but coach Andrew Lane said the team has played in a couple of pre-season tournaments and performed well.
Some notable players are: Jon Toomatasis, Manny Lovato, Felizardo Ruelas, Thanu Thy, Pedro Gutierrez, Alex Soth, and Allen Sanchez.
Lancers coach Jeriel Apelar said the team is “brand new” with some newcomers to the sport so it was hard to pick out who could be a standout.
However, the highlight of the team is the athletic middles.
“They’re behind in the experience department but I think they’ll get there eventually,” Apelar said.
The Lancers are listed on the CIF-SS watchlist entering the season.
Long Beach Poly
After a runner-up finish to Wilson in the Moore League last year, the Jackrabbits had a deep semifinal playoff run to announce themselves as a rising force. Second-year coach Sid Davidson’s Jackrabbits has a top-flight talent in senior Malcolm King, a great Long Beach boys’ volleyball story.
King learned to play volleyball as a freshman at Poly, made varsity as a sophomore, and is now one of the top hitters in the nation, signed for college with CSUN. King isn’t the only rising player at Poly, where sophomore and returning all-league player Lucky Iosua is another one to watch.
After a historic run last year which included the school’s first-ever CIF boys volleyball title, Wilson returns senior Leo Pravednikov (reigning Moore League Player of the Year) but will have to replace some key players from the championship run such as Payne Lounsbery.
Long-time coach Jeremy Cook stepped down and Chris Ceballos is the Bruins’ new coach.
Ceballos played and coached at St. Bernard and was a varsity assistant at South Torrance before becoming the head girls’ coach at San Pedro.
“When I walk into practice, I see the height and athleticism that we have,” Ceballos said. “We have a lot of big players and the amount of skill they have and their passing ability is eye-opening.”
Ceballos said the team has had limited court space due to basketball cancellations caused by COVID.
Pravednikov is a “monster” according to Ceballos and the senior can “do anything on the court.”
Juniors Max Cherin and Braden Pool-Harris and sophomore Ian Nolte are other weapons for the Bruins and freshman Marek Turner has a bright future.
Turner played on the basketball team and is a pin hitter who can play on the right side, in the middle, or outside.
“They still think they have something to prove,” Ceballos said. “Being overlooked in some aspects…. They have a chip on their shoulder.
The Bruins have a tough non-league schedule with games against Burroughs, Los Alamitos, Palos Verdes, and Redondo Union, all of whom are on the CIF watchlist.
The season officially began on Feb. 19 but the Moore League season starts tomorrow (March 1) with a heavyweight battle between Poly and Wilson at Wilson.