After an up and down club volleyball year, the Balboa Bay Volleyball Club’s 17 Quiksilver was ranked No. 11 in the Open Division at the USA Volleyball Boys’ Junior Olympics Championship.
Balboa Bay, featuring three Laguna Beach residents Travis Woloson, Reed Thompson and Robbie McKnight, wasn’t even the top-seeded team in its pool.
“The tournament before, we didn’t play very well," Woloson said. “That was almost a good thing, because everyone was so pumped up [to come back]."
Eleven matches later, gold-medal dreams would be realized.
For the second straight year.
The Balboa Bay squad defended its 16s title from a year ago, winning the national 17 Open title July 8 in Atlanta by topping San Diego-based Epic, 25-14, 25-18. The team, coached by Long Beach State’s John Hawks, went undefeated in those 11 matches.
“It was awesome," said Woloson, who along with Thompson was on the 16s team a year ago. Woloson, an opposite and setter who will be a senior at Laguna Beach High, was also named to the all-tournament team.
“In the volleyball world and environment, it’s probably one of the best things to do," he said. “We definitely started playing our best volleyball at the end of the year, and we got better every day at JOs."
McKnight, who will be a junior for the Breakers, was a backup setter for Balboa Bay. He came in and made some big serves during some tight matches, like a tough three-game win over Santa Monica in the quarterfinals.
“I think we hadn’t beaten that team this year," said McKnight, who medaled at JOs for the first time. “That team is probably the biggest team in the gym ... . We peaked at the right time, definitely, at JOs. It felt so good. We took care of the ball."
It’s the first time a Balboa Bay team has repeated as champion in at least 10 years. After two three-game wins in the first round of pool play, the team swept seven of its final eight matches.
Balboa Bay’s Connor Olbright, who attends El Modena High, was named the 17 Open division MVP.
Jake Killian was another local boys’ winner. The setter, who recently graduated from Laguna Beach, was part of the OC Riptides club that won the 18 Open title.