Coach Lance Stewart makes it clear what the goal is for his Laguna Beach High volleyball teams.
It’s been 26 years since the Breakers won their last CIF title in boys’ volleyball, and that’s simply too long in Stewart’s eyes.
“We’re not satisfied until we hang banners," said Stewart, now in the sixth year of his second stint as coach at Laguna Beach. “We want to win CIF championships. We have other goals we try to achieve, but that’s what we work for every year."
The Breakers have lost in the CIF Southern Section Division II quarterfinals four straight years, but this year may hold more promise. They’re ranked No. 2 in the Division II preseason poll behind defending champion Valencia, and they already hold a quality win.
Laguna Beach outlasted Edison on the road Tuesday, 25-22, 17-25, 25-21, 19-25, 15-10. They were also at JSerra on Thursday in a match that occurred after press time.
Top returners this season for the Breakers include 6-foot-2 senior outside hitter Cooper Gwaltney, 6-4 junior outside Scott Chapel and 6-4 junior setter Travis Woloson.
“Travis should be one of the better volleyball players in Orange County by the time he’s done with his senior year," Stewart said.
Other key varsity players for the defending Orange Coast League champs include 6-4 senior middle blocker Seth Morris, as well as sophomore setter Robbie McKnight.
Senior libero Harrison Phelps also earns high praise.
“He’s pretty incredible," Stewart said. “I think I’ve got the top libero in Orange County. If he’s not, he’s pretty close."
Senior opposite Jake Killian also will contribute as a returning varsity player.
“I think it could be a great season," Stewart said. “We’re pretty scrappy. I think we’ll play good defense."
Laguna Beach lost three starters from last year, including Clay Knapp (USC), Michael Kahl (Pepperdine) and Shawn Merz (UCLA). But with plenty of other returners, expectations remain high.
After all, it’s all about that banner. Since their last title in 1983, the Breakers have lost two times in the finals and six other times in the semifinals.
“We’re the only school in Southern Section volleyball history to have made the playoffs every year, but we want to push through and hang a banner," Stewart said. “We’re due. We’re due to hang a banner."