The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Volleyball in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Misty May-Treanor and the Dream in Gold Foundation.
Local boys’ volleyball has run through Wilson High for the past two seasons. The Bruins have gone 20-0 in Moore League play since 2021, with a combined overall record of 46-6 during that span. The Bruins also won a CIF title, and have been elevated from a Division 3 program up near the top of Division 1.
Will their dominance continue in 2023, or is another team ready to rule Long Beach boys’ volleyball this year?
Now in his second season as Wilson head coach, Chris Ceballos is confident with this year’s group. It’s never easy to replace a two-time Moore League Player of the Year–which Wilson must do now that career kills leader Leo Pravednikov is at UC San Diego–but the Bruins seem to have the talent to help mitigate that loss.
“We’re still looking really strong,” Ceballos said of his squad. “After last year’s team, I wasn’t sure what we were going to walk into this year, and I’m pleasantly surprised. I actually think we might be more dynamic than we were last year.”
The Bruins do have some returners with loads of experience, including seniors Braden Pool-Harris and Max Cherin. They’ve been playing together since they were kids, and will both go on to play college volleyball, with Pool-Harris committed to NJIT while Cherin is headed to St. Francis College in Brooklyn.
Pool-Harris has taken on setting duties for Wilson after playing libero last year, and Ceballos praised his knowledge and leadership on the court. The 6-foot-5 Cherin is a returner in the middle where he’s been a key performer the past two seasons, and his connection with Pool-Harris could make him even more dangerous in 2023.
Another key weapon for Wilson is 6-foot-6 junior Ian Nolte, who got his first extended look as an outside hitter last season and will continue in that role this year. Nolte has the size, skill and athleticism to be the best player in the league, and recently committed to play his college volleyball at Division 1 powerhouse Ohio State.
But the talent doesn’t stop there, because sophomore Marek Turner might be the best athlete of the bunch. Primarily a middle blocker growing up, Tuner has made the move to playing opposite both in club and at Wilson, which has greatly improved his passing and made him a more versatile weapon for the Bruins.
“He’s 6-foot-4 and he flies,” Ceballos said of Turner. “He’s jumping out of the building, and it just seems like the game is so easy for him.”
Other contributors include 6-foot-4 junior Will Morrison, who has a big arm and can play anywhere on the floor. So can newcomer Alden Jacobs, who transferred into Wilson after living in Washington last year. He’s brought in great energy and work ethic, fitting right in with his new teammates. With so much talent on the roster, it’s easy for expectations to be high at Wilson, but Ceballos wants to make sure his team is focused on playing hard in each and every match, without worrying too much about the end goal.
“We felt the pressure last year because we knew what we had,” Ceballos admitted. “And we just don’t want to put the expectation of having to win CIF or we have to go Division 1. We just want to make sure that we’re playing hard every single day and riding this thing ‘til the wheels fall off, wherever that takes us. It’s gonna be exciting.”
The Bruins are already off to an 8-0 start to the year, with a win over Mater Dei and sweeps of Lakewood and Poly in the first week of the league season.
Millikan is coming off a very successful 2022 season, which ended up in the Division 3 semifinals. The Rams have moved up to Division 1/2 this year thanks to their 24-9 record a year ago, and head coach Matt Johnson still has some great talent on the roster.
What he’s seen from this group is that the challenge may come more from the mental side of the game and staying in unison as a team. The Rams were swept at home in their Moore League opener against Poly, which gave them an early setback in their season.
“I think Poly was a wake up call for us,” Johnson explained. “Some of the errors and the things that we did wrong in that match, we were able to identify where some of those things were coming from. It wasn’t a talent thing, it wasn’t that we had pieces out of place, it was just in our attitude and how we approach the game.”
The Rams bounced back immediately with a sweep over Warren the very next night, which was an encouraging sign for Johnson as he saw his team communicate better on the court and play more unselfish volleyball.
Millikan’s top weapon will once again be 6-foot-10 sophomore Jackson Cryst, who joined the volleyball team after Millikan’s basketball season came to a close. The talented pin hitter is already averaging 6.0 kills per set for the Rams and will likely be the first name on every opponent’s scouting report this season.
Senior libero Gio Baltazar (pictured) has shown great improvement from last season and is captaining the Millikan defense. Junior Logan Karkanen is back at setter where he can use his size to chip in as a hitter and blocker. Seniors Bryce Martinez and Henry Potsma return at outside hitter, but there will be new faces in the middle after the Rams lost their top two options from a season ago. Seniors Zach Dahl and Gabe Dunca, along with junior Ryan Ringis, have stepped in capably in that role.
Long Beach Poly
On the flip side of that league loss for Millikan was an impressive road win for Long Beach Poly to kick off league play. The Jackrabbits have played a tough preseason schedule and opened up league play at Millikan and at Wilson in a brutal first week.
“I’m definitely excited about the group that we have,” Davidson said of his team. “We’re going to be very young and inexperienced, but I think the future’s bright for us, and we’re gonna be competitive … I feel that I’m still building a program that I want to get where it was back in the day when I used to play, but that’s a process. I know things aren’t going to happen overnight.”
Junior outside hitter Lucky Iosua (pictured) will be the go-to player for the Jackrabbits, both as the top offensive weapon and a three-year starter in high school. Ali’i Oglesby is back for his second year as starting setter for the Jackrabbits, and 6-foot-4 sophomore KJ Hill will again get playing time in the middle or on the right side.
Sophomore Matt Tsao will make the switch from libero to outside hitter this season, where he’ll be joined by junior Romred Tondoc, who had a very productive summer and shows a lot of leadership ability. Jackson Trunelle will be a contributor as an opposite hitter, and Coach Davidson says Elijah Oglesby–Ali’i’s little brother–is a young player to watch.
There’s a new coach at Lakewood with a familiar last name, as Adam Wadley has taken over as the head of the boys’ volleyball program. He’s long been an assistant coach for his dad, Mike Wadley–girls’ volleyball coach and athletic director at Lakewood–and Adam brings plenty of experience as a club and high school coach.
“I’ve been a coach for 10 years and a head coach for six, but it’s kind of different being a program leader,” the younger Wadley explained. “That’s the thing that I want to focus on for this year especially, is just learning how to be the main leader in the program. From the top senior to the incoming freshmen, teaching the guys how to make sure they’re properly representing not just the volleyball program, but Lakewood High School as well.”
He inherits an inexperienced program with a large sophomore class, but not a ton of upperclassmen. What has already been a positive for Wadley is that his players genuinely love to play the sport and work to get better every day. He’s been at times more of a teacher than a coach as he’s working to bring up his team’s overall skill, and his goals for year one are just to make the playoffs and get some valuable experience there.
Carlo Tautai will be a top offensive target for the Lancers, and a main outlet for experienced junior setter Edrick Dang. Seniors are few and far between for Lakewood, but one that will see extensive playing time is hard-working outside hitter Xander Cha. Sophomore middle Christian Newquist also shows a lot of promise with a strong work ethic.
Wadley will also have a great group of assistant coaches helping him out this season, led by longtime girls’ assistant coach Cookie Feomaia and Lakewood’s head football coach, Justin Utupo.
In J-Town, head coach Andy Lane has a good number of returning starters who’ve worked to improve during the offseason. Junior Jose Becerra is back as a three-year starter in the middle, where he’ll be joined by sophomore Angel Delgadillo. Senior libero Alex Soth will anchor a tenacious back row defense along with classmate Jacob Archundia.
Sophomore Luis Sanchez is a returning starter at setter, and Lane says he’s made tremendous strides coming off his freshman season. His main targets will include four-year starter Pedro Gutierrez on the right, along with some exciting new arrivals in sophomore Chase Jett and senior Joseph Aulai. Other players expected to contribute this season include Dylan Falefitu, Jon Toomatasi and Allen Sanchez.
Cabrillo has a first-year head coach in James Kainoa, who has spent the past four seasons as the girls’ volleyball coach, and now has a handful of returning players to build around with the boys’ program. Those six returners are Aiden Silva, Josiah Petaia, Kenjin Mababa, Mark Ebalobor, Edie Murillo, and Alex Ripley, and they’ll be matched up with an inexperienced group of underclassmen.
“With the new group of freshmen and sophomore players and six seniors, we are definitely volleyball IQ challenged, but the motivation to compete is there,” said Kainoa of this year’s team. “That’s all a coach can ask for with a new group … My expectations for this group is that I don’t have any. I want them to find their personal motivation so that they organically can appreciate the game as much as I love coaching it.”
Outside of the Moore League, St. Anthony also has a new head coach for the 2023 season. Feagai Eteuati has taken over as head coach of the boys’ program he believes the Saints will be solid this year, even without a ton of numbers within the program.
“Our team looks really really strong,” Eteuati said. “We have a lot of players that have the potential to be disruptive in this league, so I'm excited. A lot of my boys do come from a volleyball background, I’m just hoping me and my coaching staff can get the best out of them this season.”
One player with a lot of potential and time to develop is freshman setter Noah Furlow, who was the St. Anthony quarterback last fall on the football field. He’s got the ability to set and swing, and he and twin brother Jack appear to be the future of the St. Anthony program starting this season.
Sophomore Ryder Tuaolo is also a setter with the ability to play other positions thanks to his ability to block and hit the ball. He’ll be one of the Saints’ top offensive targets along with senior Brody Owen on the outside. Fellow seniors Aiden Beranek and Adrian Aguiba will also be key contributors as the Saints look to compete for a Camino Real League title and potential playoff berth.
The Saints will be one of several local teams competing in the Long Beach Invitational Tournament, hosted at Millikan this weekend.