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Seeking a banner year

The Laguna Beach High boys’ volleyball team opened Orange Coast League play on Tuesday night.

Seniors Travis Woloson, Scottie Chapel and Reed Thompson didn’t bat an eyelash.

No disrespect to Godinez, but the Breakers’ ultimate satisfaction won’t be gained by beating up on league foes, like they do year after year.

The seniors’ goal this year is clear: they want two banners, one for a CIF Southern Section Division II title and one for a CIF Southern California Regional title.

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“That’s our main goal — to hang two banners this year,” Woloson said.

Last year they just won the regional title after the top-seeded Breakers suffered a disappointing loss at Royal of Simi Valley in the Division II semifinals. If they’re going to win both titles this year, the outside hitter/setter Woloson, opposite Chapel and middle blocker Thompson will undoubtedly be key cogs.

Woloson and Chapel, who each stand 6 feet 5, were co-league Most Valuable Players last year. Coach Lance Stewart is just glad to have such experienced seniors at key positions.

“They punch the time clock,” Stewart said. “They’re hard-workers. They get the job done at their position. And they’re all good kids; that’s what I’m most happy about.”

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Chapel’s tradition with Laguna volleyball is long-standing, dating back to when his older brothers Trey (class of 2004) and Andrew (’05) played. Trey Chapel, also an opposite, was a second-team All-CIF pick his senior year.

Scottie has been on varsity since his freshman year and, as such, he doesn’t let anything faze him.

“I got to see how Lance coached and I wasn’t surprised when I started playing,” Scottie Chapel said. “I like how he coaches sometimes. It wasn’t really a surprise when he’d yell at me; I didn’t take it personally. I just had to take the message instead of getting caught up in the emotions.”

Woloson, who has verbally committed to USC, is often Laguna’s big bopper and more often than not, the team’s emotional leader. He has shared setting duties with junior Robbie McKnight for the last couple of years, something he doesn’t have to do on the club team of all three players, Balboa Bay.

“I like it,” said Woloson, whose brother-in-law, Brian Lewis, formerly played pro beach volleyball. “It’s different. It’s fun to do both [hitting and setting] because you get to do everything.”

Stewart said the natural position for Thompson, who stands 6-4, is outside hitter. But he has been a successful middle for the Breakers, as well. Thompson said he enjoys the fast nature of the sport.

“It goes back and forth a lot, and you get a lot of chances,” Thompson said. It’s unlike soccer or baseball, where you mess up once and it can ruin the whole game. In volleyball, it’s forgiving.”

All three players have had plenty of success on the court. Last summer, Thompson and Woloson played on the Balboa Bay 17 Quiksilver squad that captured gold at the Junior Olympics .

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Chapel has always had to play up because of his older age, but this year all three of them are playing for the Balboa Bay 18s squad headed by UC Irvine Coach John Speraw. Laguna assistant Steve Astor, who served as the Breakers’ interim coach while Stewart was suspended earlier this year, is an assistant on that Balboa Bay team, as well.

The club team is a who’s-who of some of the top talent in Orange County, also boasting top players from programs such as Corona del Mar, Edison and Huntington Beach. But as for the high school season, the Breakers are extremely committed. Even Stewart’s suspension didn’t dampen their spirits, nor did tough five-game losses in their first two matches against Edison and Newport Harbor.

“I think what’s cool is that [Stewart] is just as motivated as us to win,” Woloson said. “It’ll be fun. We’ll see what we can do.”

Laguna boys’ volleyball has not won a CIF divisional title since 1983. This year, the Breakers are ranked second in Division II, behind defending-champion Westlake.

What may be most exciting is that the three seniors agree that the Breakers haven’t come close to playing their best volleyball yet.

“Everyone has to be on the same page,” Chapel said. “That’s something that we’re dealing with right now. Everyone has to play hard; it’s a team sport. One or two people can’t be playing hard while the other three or four are not playing hard. It just won’t work if you want to win CIF.”

Expect these three seniors to keep up their end of the bargain.



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