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1994 BOYS’ VOLLEYBALL PREVIEW : Whittier Christian Trying to Sustain Inland Dynasty

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The blueprint is far from perfect for building a powerhouse volleyball program.

Whittier Christian High in La Habra has no on-campus gym, so the Heralds must practice and play home matches at a church in neighboring Whittier.

The campus is near the smoggy foothills of La Habra, miles from the surf, sand and beach volleyball nets. And with only 600 students attending the small private school, there isn’t a vast talent pool from which to draw.

Still, under Coach Dave Herron, Whittier Christian has attained a level of success few have matched in Southern Section boys’ volleyball history.

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Last season, Whittier Christian defeated Bellflower St. John Bosco in the Southern Section Division III title match, 15-5, 15-12, 15-9, to win its third consecutive Southern Section championship.

Led by Derek Beard, the Heralds also set a Southern Section record for consecutive victories. The victory against St. John Bosco stretched Whittier Christian’s winning streak to 39.

The titles, the rings, the victories all make Herron smile.

But at the first day of practice last week, Herron was beaming when 30 freshmen and sophomores walked through the gym doors for tryouts.

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“That’s our best turnout ever,” Herron said. “I guess success breeds success.” *

Whittier Christian’s biggest success came last season with what Herron called his best team.

With Beard, a 6-foot-4 outside hitter, and Jon Habben, a 6-5 outside hitter, the Heralds had a potent attack. Middle blockers, Tim Willey, who is 6-3, and Peter Schrock, who is 6-2, anchored the front line of defense.

Jason Hyde, a right-side hitter, and setter Chris Keife rounded out the squad.

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“We could side out with every rotation,” Herron said.

But coming into last season, Herron faced numerous question marks because the Heralds had lost 10 of 14 players from a team that defeated Calvary Chapel for its second consecutive Southern Section title in 1992.

And this season, Herron is a little apprehensive about talking about what could be a Southern Section-record fourth consecutive title.

Willey, Hyde and Keife return, but Beard, the school’s first player to receive a Division I college scholarship, is at Pepperdine.

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“We’ll be competitive, but I think Calvary Chapel should be the favorite in the Olympic League this year,” Herron said.

Robert and Philip Schildts return for the Eagles, as does all-league setter Matt Wright. But Calvary Chapel Coach Chuck Wright thinks Herron might be sandbagging.

“They’ve been such a good team in the past, you have to unseat them,” Wright said. “They’re innocent until proven guilty of not being the favorite.

“Dave is a class guy and he’s built a strong program. We’ve built ours up like theirs so we can compete with them.”

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The backbone to Whittier Christian’s success is the success of its lower-level teams. Herron usually keeps about 40 players in his program during the season.

“Some teams in our league have trouble fielding just a varsity team,” Herron said. “We’ve been fortunate.

“Kids at our school want to play volleyball and there’s a friendly rivalry between the sports here, but not more so than any other school.

“I think the football players sometimes tease the volleyball guys, but then we can just point to the championship rings. People want to play for a winning program.”

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Herron credits his wife, Barbara, for much of the team’s recent success. Barbara coaches the freshman-sophomore team.

“She teaches them the basics I want them to learn, so it’s so much easier when I get them up on the varsity,” Herron said.

Willey, Hyde and Keife came up together through the program, and they don’t want the winning tradition to end.

“Sure I think we want to win another championship and continue the tradition,” said Willey, a returning all-league player and team captain. “But we know it won’t be easy and it will take a lot of hard work to get back there.”

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Said Herron: “These guys want to win and they know how, ever since they were freshmen.”

Willey, Hyde and Keife have never lost a varsity match. . .and they don’t want to start now.


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