Volleyball Title Final Goal of Harvard Quartet

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The walls in Mark Zalin’s office at Harvard High are lined with photographs of volleyball teams he has coached during 11 years at the North Hollywood school. Almost hidden among the 8 x 10s is a small snapshot of the 1987 seventh-grade team at Harvard. It is a team that Zalin remembers well.

“It was this little core group of kids that were just taken with volleyball and couldn’t get enough,” Zalin said. “The varsity had uniforms with white tank tops and red shorts that year and they wanted uniforms just like those.”

Brian Baise, Andres Carlo, Adam Davirro and Eric Wells were members of that team and the desire for those uniforms helped provide motivation early in their volleyball upbringing.


The four were elevated to the varsity during the playoffs of their freshman year in 1989. But as seniors this spring, they have been fueled by the quest for a Southern Section championship after coming up short the past three years.

Harvard entered as the top-seeded team in the 3-A Division playoffs in 1988, but lost to Glendale in the title match. The Saracens advanced to the semifinals in 1989 and 1990, falling to Brentwood in ’89 and eventual champion Arcadia last year.

“The first day of practice this year our goal was to win the 3-A championship,” said Baise, a 6-foot setter. “That has been on our minds all season. There is no question that this is the strongest team and the most balanced we’ve had.”

The Saracens (13-2), seeded second behind Marmonte League champion Royal (15-1), defeated Camarillo, 15-7, 15-8, 15-3, Friday in a first-round game at Harvard. The Saracens will visit Long Beach Wilson, the Moore League runner-up, Tuesday.

The Saracens were 8-0 in San Fernando League play to win their sixth consecutive league title and have won 67 league matches in a row during that period. Harvard is 66-9 the past four seasons.

Harvard’s last league loss came to North Torrance on March 1, 1986, in the first league match of the season. Harvard defeated North Torrance in the second meeting that year and won the next 14 matches to win the Ocean League title.


Harvard went on to win 30 consecutive matches in two years in the Santa Fe League before moving to the San Fernando League in 1989.

Those accomplishments have not come easily.

“We have played tough schedules,” said Zalin, who has a 112-28 record at Harvard. “We haven’t ducked anybody. When we were in the Ocean League, we were playing the powers of volleyball every time we stepped on the court. We could play lesser people, but it wouldn’t serve a purpose.”

This season Harvard has never been ranked lower than second in the 3-A poll and has defeated Arcadia (10-4), Woodbridge (13-2), the Pacific and Sea View league champions, and perennial City Section power Chatsworth.

Two weeks ago, Harvard advanced to the finals of the Redondo tournament for the first time. The Saracens extended San Marcos (14-1), seeded first in the 4-A, before falling, 15-12 and 15-11, in the best-of-three-game championship.

Last Friday, Harvard knocked off Angelus League champion Loyola (18-2) in a match where Davirro and Wells had 30 kills and 18 kills, respectively, and Baise contributed 18 assists.

It was Harvard’s volleyball tradition that attracted Baise, Carlo, Davirro and Wells to the sport.


“We used to go to the varsity games in junior high and we couldn’t believe how good they were,” Davirro said. “It was amazing how they did things. When we started, we only had these nylon flag football uniforms with holes in them. We wanted to look just like the varsity.”

Carlo echoed those sentiments.

“We had some cheap reject uniforms and we pleaded for some better stuff,” he said. “We thought we were pretty hot and we wanted to imitate the big guys.”

Baise was prepared to go to great lengths. “We definitely wanted the uniforms, and we were going to refuse to play,” he said.

Such a drastic measure was not necessary. Baise, Carlo, Davirro and Wells and the rest of the team raised funds to purchase the uniforms during their eighth-grade season.

Over their high school careers, the quartet has proved themselves more than worthy of the upgraded wardrobe.

Davirro, a 6-1 outside hitter, has signed a letter of intent to play at UC Santa Barbara. He was selected to the Southern Section 3-A team as a junior and was named the most valuable player of the U. S. Junior Olympic tournament in 1989.


Davirro was chosen to the all-tournament teams at the UCSB/Dos Pueblos and Redondo tournaments this season.

Wells, a 6-3 outside hitter, has been accepted to Stanford and will be the sixth player from Harvard to play at the Pacific 10 Conference school. He will rejoin former Harvard teammates Rick Osterloh, Bobby Hillman and Mike Lowe.

Baise was named an All-American at the Junior Olympic tournament in 1989 and is a two-time all-league selection.

Baise’s parents attended Stanford and his father also played on the tennis team there, but Baise has chosen to play at Princeton.

Carlo, a 6-4 middle blocker, is perhaps the most versatile athlete of the four, but probably will not play volleyball at the collegiate level.

Although recruited by several Division I universities, including Stanford, Carlo is planning to attend the University of Virginia, which fields only a club team.


Carlo was an All-Southern Section selection in volleyball in his sophomore and junior seasons. In basketball, he averaged 14.5 points, 11 rebounds and 4.2 steals a game to lead Harvard to the San Fernando League title. He was named the league’s most valuable player and was selected to the 3-A second team.

Carlo also kicked a 52-yard field goal while playing on the freshman football team at Harvard and is considering trying to make the team at Virginia as a walk-on kicker.

“He’s a great natural athlete,” Wells said of Carlo. “He can just dominate and he is capable of playing volleyball at the NCAA level. We were disappointed that he might not stick with it.”

The four, however, admit that a large amount of Harvard’s success stems from their ability to stick together on the court.

“You can have an all-star team with just a bunch of great players, but the story is that we have talent and real good chemistry,” Wells said. “Other teams have one big star who they go to, but I am confident I can go to anybody on this team.”

And the team is confident of going to one another.

“Our advantage is that we know each other so well,” Davirro said. “It’s like a sixth sense and everyone knows what the other is going to do.”


Adding a championship trophy to go along with the snapshot in Zalin’s office is what they’d like to do most.