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.
Long Beach will be the center of the high school beach volleyball world in 2023–just as it should be.
The Moore League held an inaugural season of the sport last year at LBCC, with a pairs tournament that crowned champions (Poly’s Adonia Faumuina and Halie McGinest), but without crowning a formal team champion. This year, the league has six teams competing instead of four, and will declare a team champion at the conclusion of team dual competition, the first week of April, as well as a pairs champion during a league tournament April 18-20.
Rain has been wreaking havoc on the season since it began in early March, but sunnier skies should bring more competition going forward. Either way, the rest of the SoCal beach world will come to Long Beach at the conclusion of the season, as LBCC’s world class facility will host the CIF-SS team and individual championships in early May.
Here’s a look at some of the top teams and pairs competing this season on the sand.
Long Beach Poly would have won the Moore League team title last year, had one been officially awarded, and the Jackrabbits do return some top talent from last year. Poly coach Meaghan Sefuiva said the key with beach, as always, is balancing schedules, since many of her athletes are playing club volleyball during the same season as beach.
“We want them to have the skills to balance their education, athletic, and daily lives to succeed on and off the court,” she said. “At the same time, have fun--some of these athletes have so much talent and so much on their plate that they’re overwhelmed by it all.”
Sefuiva said her top athletes in some combination this year will be Halie McGinest, Jojo Fuamatu, Imajaleah Goggins, and Taylor Mercado, all of whom played for Poly last Spring.
Wilson coach Gerald Aquiningoc is in a good position with a ton of returning talent, including a top tandem in Chloe Pravednikov and Kate Eckenrode who are the preseason favorite to win the pairs title.
“We have a solid four pairs that will be competitive in league,” said Aquiningoc.
Pravednikov and Eckenrode have CIF-SS potential as a duo, as they’ve got both the height and speed required to play the sport at an elite level, as well as a developing sense of on-court chemistry.
Millikan was the surprise breakout team last year, pushing Poly’s top duo to the brink during the pairs tournament. Their top two teams are strong this year, and coach Ashleigh Atsaros said her team is growing.
“We are grateful to have 17 young athletes dedicate their time and energy towards their beach volleyball game,” she said. “With lots of indoor talent and a good amount of height, we are excited to see what this season holds for us.”
The Rams’ top pairs will be Olivia Smith and Cali Tirado, as well as Sophia Orbiso and Bethany Arnold. Atsaros praised Smith’s defensive ability and court vision, as well as strong setting ability by all four of her top players.
Lakewood coach Jessica Kaeka said she was still mixing her combinations around together when the season started, but her top four players looked like Nyla Hankins, Lalalei Hall, Alizae Leilua, and Sofia Gibson.
“We want to place higher than last year,” said Kaeka. “It’s still new and I don’t want to put that much pressure on the girls. We want them to have fun while getting better so we’re focusing on small daily goals as we go along.”
All of the league coaches praised Jordan and Cabrillo for adding teams this year to allow a full six-program schedule for the league’s first official season.
Jordan coach Lara Stone said a good portion of her program are girls’ basketball players, who will end up reaping the leaping/speed abilities of training on sand for a few months.
“These girls know the game and are picking up the differences that come with beach volleyball (compared to indoor) quickly,” she said. Among the Panthers’ top players are Marlene and Savannah Hernandez, Noelani Laufou and Julietta Cardenas Vidal, Otara and Terin Faleono, and Stephania Garcia Flores and Alexis Guttierrez.
Cabrillo boys’ basketball coach Chris Spencer stepped up to coach the Jags’ first season despite having a much stronger hoops background.
“They weren’t going to be able to have a team if I didn’t step up and I’m trying to keep as many kids busy and off the street as possible,” he said.
The Jags’ top duos are Naty Guzman and Evelyn Mejia as well as America Martinez and Chelsie Odulio and Kailani Kainoa and Monze Guzman.