His Royal Highness Ruled Court

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Talk about a lovely parting gift.

Senior middle blocker David Russell of Royal High gave retiring Coach Bob Ferguson plenty of volleyball memories.

A 6-foot-6 force from anywhere on the court, Russell set three school records and led the Highlanders to the Southern Section Division II final this season.

Along the way, UCLA-bound Russell helped Royal win the Marmonte League title for a 12th consecutive season and was selected league player of the year.

Russell is The Times' Valley/Ventura County player of the year.

The youngest of three volleyball-playing siblings at Royal, Russell carved his own niche by delivering kills from anywhere.

His back-row attacks were a work of art. He'd swoop in on a set from behind the 10-foot line, crush the ball and land deftly in the front row, sometimes a few inches from the net.

Russell had 615 kills this season, obliterating the school record of 396 set by Cam Dickson in 1999, and finished with 983 career kills, eclipsing the mark of 735 set by Steve Hodge from 1991-93.

Russell set the school record for kills in a match with 43 against Canyon in a three-game playoff sweep.

"It couldn't come to a nicer guy either," said Ferguson, who is stepping down after 14 seasons as coach. "He's a pure team player, never self-concerned. He has so much talent it's incredible."

The personal achievements were nice, but Russell was more enthused about the performance of the Highlanders (26-5).

In the playoffs, unseeded Royal defeated No. 3-seeded Huntington Beach Marina and No. 2-seeded Loyola before losing to top-seeded Mira Costa in four games. Russell had a typical performance in the final, pounding a match-high 27 kills.

"No one thought we'd do anything at the beginning of the year," Russell said. "We weren't even ranked [in the Division II top 10]. They thought we had nothing left from last season.

"I wish we could have brought home the ring for [Ferguson] at the end, but I'm glad we gave him one last great season."

Ferguson called Russell one of the best all-around players he ever coached.

Ferguson believes it won't take Russell long to make a name for himself at UCLA.

"I've got a feeling he'll be a star real soon," Ferguson said. "When you set him in the right place, he's hard to stop."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
57°