Astor Era begins with sweep

LAGUNA BEACH — A new era in the Newport Harbor High boys' volleyball program began on Friday.

Gone is Dan Glenn, the coach who led the Sailors since 1986.

In is Steve Astor, who has taken over for Glenn after serving as one of his assistants last season.

Astor's head coaching debut with the Sailors began well. They opened the season with a 25-18, 27-25, 25-21 sweep at Laguna Beach.

The gym is one Astor is familiar with as a coach. He has been an assistant at Laguna Beach since 2006, helping with the boys for five seasons and he is still an assistant with the girls.

Rotating back and forth from both campuses has been interesting for Astor.

"I'm still kind of getting used to it," said Astor, who is an assistant with the Laguna Beach girls in the fall. "I think it'll hit me more when we play at Newport for the first time.

"But it's comfortable for me in this gym because I'm here so much. I've been pretty lucky to work with Lance [Stewart at Laguna Beach] and Dan last year. I've been spoiled."

Astor has been under two of the top high school coaches in the state. Now, it's his turn to lead one of the storied boys' programs in the state.

But the Sailors aren't one of the best teams in the CIF Southern Section Division I. They went into the season unranked in the Division I preseason poll.

Newport Harbor usually opens the season ranked in the top 10, but Astor doesn't see it as a snub.

"We lost a lot and we have a lot of questions," said Astor, who wasn't sure what to expect in the Sailors' season opener.

The team looks different, from the head coach to its star player.

Not many programs can survive the loss of Cody Caldwell, the Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year last season. He led the Sailors to three undefeated Sunset League titles in four seasons.

No one on the current roster can post the kind of numbers Caldwell did last season as a senior, but Astor liked what he saw from his team in the first match.

The first one was a test for the Sailors and they passed at Laguna Beach (1-1), ranked No. 2 in Division 2.

The Breakers had swept another Sunset League team, Edison, on Tuesday. But they struggled with the Sailors' size.

Kevin Rakestraw led Newport Harbor with 16 kills and 2 1/2 blocks. The 6-foot-11 junior created problems in the middle for the Breakers, who reached the CIF Southern Section Division 2 title match last year.

Clay Carr, a 6-5 middle blocker, finished with eight kills.

When the big guys weren't pounding the ball, setter Connor Leggett found outside hitters Chris Sheppard and Pierce Ward. Leggett totaled 32 assists.

"Connor Leggett came in and set a really nice game," Astor said. "That was really key for us in winning that match."

The Breakers' 17 service errors also contributed to the Sailors' success.

Coach Scott Panaro wants his players to be aggressive with their jump serve. He said they also missed many serves against Edison, but this time the mistakes caught up to the Breakers.

Panaro is in his first season at Laguna Beach. He replaced Stewart, who will focus on the girls.

Panaro and Astor are good friends. They have coached together on the club level with the Balboa Bay Volleyball Club. Three Newport Harbor players, Sheppard and Connor Leggett and Griffin Leggett, play on Panaro's club team.

"As much as it hurts losing, it's nice to see some of the guys that I still coach having a good night and playing well," Panaro said.

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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