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Spiker Coach Has More Talent Than Openings

Mira Costa volleyball Coach Mike Cook faces a dilemma. It’s not something that keeps him up at night, but after nine years of coaching at the Manhattan Beach school he admits it’s a first.

He cannot decide on a starting lineup.

Before one starts feeling sorry for Cook, it should be explained that he’s avoided settling on a starting six because the Mustangs have too many talented players.

“This team definitely has the most depth of any team I’ve had,” he said. “It’s very difficult to make that starting lineup. Maybe I’ll just play them by platoon and let them do their thing. I’ll see how that works. Right now I think it’s good to keep them competitive with each other.”

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As usual, the Mustangs are considered among the best volleyball teams in Southern California. They are ranked second in the 4-A Division and boast an imposing squad that features seven players 6-4 or taller.

On one hand, Cook enjoys the wealth of talent. On the other, he wonders whether he can provide enough playing time to keep everyone happy.

“We have 11 starters,” he said, diplomatically.

Mira Costa returns four starters from last year’s 14-6 team that reached the second round of the 4-A playoffs--setter Jason Stumpfig, outside hitters Kevin Burd and Scott Stoops and 6-4 middle blocker Zach Small.

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But Cook says those seniors, with the possible exception of Stumpfig, may lose their jobs to promising newcomers.

David Swatik, a 6-4 junior, has been impressive in practice and could move into one of the starting outside hitter spots. Cook said the same is true of 6-4 senior Terrence Stevens.

The competition is equally fierce at middle blocker. Small, a first-team all-league selection last year, is contending with 6-7 senior Greg Shankle, the Mustangs’ most highly recruited player; 6-4 senior Brett Coordt, and 6-5 junior Pat Ivie, brother of USC standout Bryan Ivie.

Mira Costa is so solid up front that 6-7 Mike Ashenfelter, a promising junior, can’t make the team. He’ll play for the junior varsity.

Canyon Ceman, a 6-4 junior, will probably join Stumpfig in the starting lineup at setter, with Craig Adamoli providing a stable backup.

Cook says the junior class, headed by Ceman, Ivie and Swatik, is one of finest he’s coached. “All of those players will get scholarships after next year,” he said. “I don’t see how they can miss.”

Mira Costa scrimmaged No. 1-ranked Laguna Beach last weekend, and Cook was encouraged by his team’s performance in the informal match.

“I really don’t think we scrimmaged very well,” he said. “But had the score been kept, it would have been close to a tie. My team feels when we get it together, we can beat that team.”

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In nine previous seasons under Cook, Mira Costa has won seven league volleyball titles and twice finished second to Santa Monica, as it did last year in the Ocean League.

With Santa Monica now in the Bay League, does Cook expect the Mustangs to have any competition?

“It might be easier to win league with Santa Monica gone, but we’re back with North Torrance,” he said. “They’ve always had a strong program and we expect to have good games with them. We traded one good opponent for another good opponent.”

Mira Costa has never missed the playoffs under Cook, but the veteran coach doesn’t boast about it.

“It’s not hard to do when you have beach talent,” he said.

Rick Robison, the sharpshooting guard who led Torrance to the quarterfinals of the Southern Section 4-AA basketball playoffs, almost had his season ended Jan. 31 when he injured his knee in a car accident.

Fortunately for the Tartars, Robison suffered only bruised ligaments and was able to finish the season.

The Torrance baseball team wasn’t as lucky.

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Dennis Miller, a junior left-hander who was expected to be the Tartars’ top pitcher, is probably out for the season because of an injury suffered in the same accident. Coach Jeff Phillips said Miller suffered ligament and muscle damage to his left arm when he was cut by broken glass.

“It’s quite a large scar,” said the first-year head coach. “It doesn’t look like he’ll play this season. But he’s out there working. We’ll wait and see what happens.”

Miller and Robison were riding home from a basketball game with friends when the accident occurred. Their pickup truck, with a camper on the back, flipped with about 14 Torrance students aboard, Phillips said.

“Thank God they all walked away,” he said.

Even though Miraleste’s basketball team was not considered an official member of the Alpha League, it didn’t keep Alpha coaches from honoring Marauder forward Scott Klein with the league’s most valuable player award.

The 6-5 senior averaged 17.8 points and 10.2 rebounds to lead free-lance Miraleste to a 15-6 record and a spot in the 2-AA Division playoffs.

The Marauders’ Alpha League games did not count in the standings, but they were eligible for individual awards.

PREP NOTES--Three South Bay wrestlers qualified for this weekend’s state championships at the University of Pacific by placing sixth in their weight classes Saturday at the Southern Section Masters Meet at Fountain Valley High. Mike Matsumoto of North Torrance (105 pounds), West Torrance’s Kelly Yokoe (126) and Mike Ramirez (165) will be among 78 wrestlers representing the Southern Section in Stockton . . . Morningside, gunning for its second straight Southern Section title, will face Fontana at 8:30 Friday night in the 5-AA Division girls basketball final at Cal Poly Pomona. The top-seeded Lady Monarchs, led by 6-5 center Lisa Leslie and point guard JoJo Witherspoon, bring a 28-1 record into the showdown. Third-seeded Fontana is 27-1 . . . Three South Bay teams lost in semifinal soccer games Tuesday. Hawthorne was beaten by Edison, 3-2, in the Southern Section 4-A playoffs, Miraleste’s girls fell to Ontario Christian, 3-1, in a 1-A match, and second-ranked San Pedro was edged by Palisades, 4-3, in an L.A. City 4-A . . . The prep baseball season opens Friday with most area teams playing in the El Segundo and Westside tournaments. In preseason Southern Section rankings, St. Bernard is second and El Segundo third in 2-A.


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