Volleyball: Plenty of local flavor in NCAAs

The NCAA women's volleyball national tournament's final eight featured teams with three players who played for local high schools, and it is Newport Harbor's Tatum Norton playing for the national championship with the Oregon Ducks.

Norton, who was an All-CIF libero last season, has been a serving specialist as a freshman for the Ducks, who will play for the national title Saturday against the Texas Longhorns.

Oregon played against a favored Nebraska Huskers team in Omaha, Neb. in the quarterfinals on Saturday, with over 13,000 loud Nebraska fans all dressed in red. After losing the first set, the Ducks used ball control and serving to win the next three and earn a berth in the NCAA Final Four. They then beat top-ranked Penn State Thursday night in Louisville, Ky.

The national championship match will be televised on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. PT.

Not since CdM's Prentice Perkins went from CIF champs to NCAA Final Four team while at Long Beach State have any of our local players made a jump like Tatum has this season. That was 1990 and Prentice is now the head women's coach at TCU. It would be so exciting if Oregon can win it all just like Long Beach did in 1991.

Prentice, who is now Prentice Lewis, has continued to recruit locally. Megan Munce, who played at Newport, finished her final season at TCU. Megan was an All-American setter in 2009 and at the midseason mark this year, she was second in the NCAA in aces per game. She holds the career assist record for the Horned Frogs.

Morgan Boukather, who was an All-CIF star at Corona del Mar High, was a major part of the rotation at opposite hitter for the Stanford Cardinal this season. Unfortunately, Stanford lost to a defense-minded and unranked Michigan team after entering the tournament as the No. 2 seed.

Former Newport Harbor standout Cinnamon Sary, who was All-CIF as a setter and as an outside hitter, was going to redshirt this year as a freshman at USC. In early October, Coach Mick Haley decided the Trojans needed Cinnamon's setting in the lineup and pulled her out of the redshirt. In the Elite Eight, USC lost to an extremely physical Texas team in three straight.

Former Sailor setter Arielle Lysacek completed her senior season at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is the program's career assist record holder.

At Princeton, Newport's Jennifer Palmquist completed her senior season while playing only part-time due to a back injury. Also, at Princeton, CdM's Sydney Brombal made the move from outside hitter to back-row specialist.

Always a great passer, this move worked well for her.

Staying in the Ivy League, Kathryn Connor, who played at St Margaret's but lives in Newport, led Brown in digs as its starting libero. CdM's Amanda Nickel was second in kills per game also for Brown.

UC Santa Barbara started with local flavor with junior Katey Thompson, another former Sailor, at opposite and Britton Taylor as a freshman starting middle blocker.

Katey was an All-Big West selection, while CdM's Taylor was the leading percentage hitter for the Gauchos and a player that teams keyed on most.

Kasey Thompson, sister of Katey, had a very successful freshman season at Hawaii Pacific University as the starter at opposite.

Torey Thompson, the setter of the Thompson volleyball family, is currently on a trip to Hawaii to decide if HPU fits in her future plans. Tristen Thompson who suffered a season-ending knee injury during this past season's Battle of the Bay, is working on her recovery and planning also to pursue a college volleyball career.

Mary McKennon out of Corona del Mar started as the libero for Cal all season. With the returning starter out with a season-ending injury, Mary used her athleticism and competitiveness to earn the starting job, where she performed very well all season.

Kelly Heenan, Newport Harbor, was an All-Golden State Athletic Conference selection at libero for Vanguard University, where she led the conference in digs.

Former Newport teammate, McKenzi Campbell, was a setter on the team at UC Irvine.

Lauren Demos, also a member of the 2009 Newport Harbor State championship team, played as a starting middle blocker at UC San Diego this season. Fighting through injuries, Lauren continues to hit for a high percentage.

In the NCAA Final Four, there always seems to be an interesting twist at the event. The coaching staffs at Michigan, which lost to Texas, and Oregon are unique in that both have husbands and wives on the staff.

Michigan's Mark and Leisa Rosen have coached together for years, while Oregon Jim Moore and Stacy Metro, Jim's wife, are two extremely competitive coaches.

I wonder what those dinner discussions are about at those households.

CHARLIE BRANDE is a local club volleyball coach and a former head volleyball coach at UC Irvine, Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar.

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