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Mastering the kill

Charles Rich

It came down to spending this summer in the classroom learning

chemistry or physics. He chose chemistry.

Mike Gaudino will have a short period of time to master the


complicated subject, but the La Canada High boys’ volleyball player

will undoubtedly find time to dabble with improving his volleyball


Like a chemist, Gaudino is determined to combine the right


elements to make his life successful, academically and athletically.

After Gaudino put an exclamation mark on his best season, he’ll

look to again shoulder the load next season. With a heavy schedule

load that will feature reading textbooks and studying for

examinations, betting against the senior-to-be outside hitter might

not be wise because he’s already finding ways to keep improving he

and the Spartans.

“I’ll be working hard this summer, and I’ll be playing in a lot of


tournaments in the state and around the country,” said Gaudino, who

was selected as the All-Area Player of the Year by the sportswriters

and editors of the Glendale News-Press, Foothill Leader and Burbank

Leader. “I want to get better and I want to make my team better.”

The 17-year-old Gaudino finished with an area-best 405 kills in 15

matches and led the Spartans (11-8) to their first trip to the CIF

playoffs since 2001. Though La Canada fell to host Oak Park in a CIF

Southern Section Division IV first-round match, the 6-foot-3 Gaudino


averaged 27 kills per match this season and shared the Rio Hondo

League’s Most Valuable Player award.

The expectations will soar for Gaudino, and opponents will look to

devise a plan to decrease Gaudino’s productivity by finding creative

ideas in stopping him.

“I’ve learned that you have to keep playing within yourself,” said

Gaudino, who recorded 40-or-more kills three times. “I wasn’t

satisfied [with my season] because we lost in the first round, and we

had close games against Oak Park but just couldn’t put them away.”

Gaudino had plenty of zip once he hit the ball over the net. In

eight league matches, he averaged 27.8 kills.

He finished with 41 kills to give the host Spartans a

come-from-behind league victory against South Pasadena, which

advanced to the championship match of the Division IV playoffs

against Oaks Christian, on April 21.

Following the path blazed by his older sister and brother hasn’t

been a problem for Gaudino, who became the third family member to

achieve All-Area Player of the Year status since 1999.

Kelly Gaudino, Mike’s sister, was the 1999 All-Area Player of the

Year. Kelly, an outside hitter, concluded her La Canada career with

684 kills, 184 aces and 82 blocks and was twice named the league’s

most valuable player before competing at the collegiate level at UC


Following Kelly was Greg Gaudino, Mike’s brother. Greg, a stalwart

middle blocker, was the league co-most valuable player and was

selected All-Area Player of the Year in 2002. He now is a member of

the USC basketball program.

The Gaudinos occasionally spend time making their separate cases

about who the best player has been at La Canada.

“We are always talking about volleyball at the dinner table,” said

Mike, who averaged nearly 18 kills per match in 2004. “Greg and I

make fun of Kelly by telling her to hit the ball instead of tipping

it [over the net].

“Then Kelly will say, ‘Go play four years in college, and then get

back to me.’”

Kelly’s salvo might be enough to ignite Mike for his senior

season, and, perhaps a lengthy collegiate career.

Greg, who is an economics major, said Mike’s a more complete

player than he was through their junior years.




* Co-Most Valuable Player of the Rio Hondo League with South

Pasadena’s Neil Bell

* Recorded area-best 415 kills in 15 matches this year

* Had 40-or-more kills three times and 20-or-more kills nine times

this season

* Averaged 27 kills per match and 27.8 kills per league match

* Helped Spartans (11-8) advance to CIF Southern Section playoffs

for the first time since 2001


Stuart Lange * Crescenta Valley Senior * Outside Hitter

All-CIF Division II selection led Falcons in kills, digs and aces

Kyle Roach * Crescenta Valley Senior * Setter

All-Pacific League first-team member had team-best 730 assists

Alex Knopper * Providence Junior * Middle Blocker

Earned All-CIF Division V honors after finishing year with 216

kills and 182 digs

Justin Corio * St. Francis Senior * Outside Hitter

Named to the Mission League’s second team after 163-kill season

Graham Bradley * Flintridge Prep Senior * Outside Hitter

Earned All-CIF Division V second-team honors after recording 218


Dennis Flynn * Flintridge Prep Senior * Middle Blocker

Notched team-best 322 kills to earn Prep League MVP and All-CIF


Sean Beattie * Flintridge Prep Coach of the Year

Guided a deep Rebel team to the CIF Southern Section D-V



* Vinson Ching * Glendale * Senior * Outside Hitter

Lone Nitro named to the first-team All-Pacific League squad

* Joe Hummel * La Canada * Junior * Outside Hitter

All-league member had a .598 hitting percentage in league

* Jeff Kurgus * Providence * Junior * Setter

First-team All-Liberty League pick had 521 assists

* Jeff Russell * Flint. Prep * Senior * Setter

All-CIF Division V third-team athlete had 786 assists

* C.J. Walker * St. Francis * Senior * Outside Hitter

Had 168 kills and was the Golden Knights’ go-to athlete

* Julian Zielonka * Crescenta Valley * Senior * Outside Hitter

All-Pacific League first-team pick had 223 kills and 227 digs