Boys' Volleyball Dream Team: Rakestraw towers above all

The volleyball season never seems to end for a 7-footer from Newport Beach.

For Kevin Rakestraw, it finally wrapped up last week. He boarded a plane to complete a long, taxing year.

There isn't enough legroom for someone his size to relax on a flight before his final tournament. He would need two rows of seats taken out to stretch out those long limbs of his.

For Rakestraw's sake, the flight wasn't too long. He traveled with his Balboa Bay Volleyball Club Hurley under-18 team to Reno, Nev., to compete at the USA Volleyball Junior National Championships.

Rakestraw is no stranger to this tournament, which is by far the country's biggest on the club level. His teams have finished second and first the past two years.

Rakestraw helped Balboa Bay Volleyball Club reach the open division finale again in its age group. In the way was 949 Athletics' Black team, from San Juan Capistrano.

The team is comprised of players Rakestraw knew well. He played against a couple of them in his last Newport Harbor High match of his career. They ended Rakestraw's senior season in May, when the Sailors lost in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs at third-seeded San Clemente.

Those same players stopped Rakestraw again, as 949 Athletics won the gold medal. Rakestraw didn't come home with the ultimate prize, but he's the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year in boys' volleyball after a standout season.

The last time a Newport Harbor player earned the top local award was two years ago, and just like Cody Caldwell that school year, Rakestraw stood out on two courts, in volleyball and basketball.

Rakestraw, a Dream Team pick in boys' basketball in the winter, can play hoops. However, volleyball is the sport he plans to play on the next level at Stanford.

"There was no player that had a greater impact on any matches than Kevin Rakestraw did," said Steve Astor, who finished his second and last season as Newport Harbor's head coach.

While Astor fell short of leading the Sailors to the top of the Sunset League during his short stint, Rakestraw kept the program in contention. Each year under Astor the Sailors placed second to Huntington Beach, which this spring went on to claim the CIF Southern Section Division 1 and CIF Southern California Regional Division 1 titles.

Rakestraw's postseason was over in the second round for the second straight time. His season ended with him making the All-Orange County second team (Orange County Register), the All-Sunset League first team and the Dave Mohs Orange County High School All-Star Match for seniors after he recorded 316 kills and 49 blocks, and hit .405.

Rakestraw almost lifted the Sailors (21-9, 8-2 in league) to a five-set upset at San Clemente, producing 23 kills in the second-round match. They went into the contest with a lot of momentum, having beaten Newhall Hart in the first round and rival Corona del Mar in the regular-season finale.

The five-set victory at CdM meant a lot to Rakestraw, a repeat Dream Team selection. He had never won the Battle of the Bay rivalry match.

"He showed [his impact] in our last match of the regular season versus CdM," Astor said. "His 34 kills, 20 of which came in only sets four and five, showed his dominance.

"His versatility should also be noted, as he went back and forth between middle blocker and opposite throughout the year. In the Battle of the Bay alone, he played middle blocker in sets one through three and opposite in sets four and five. Kevin clearly is the Player of the Year."

The following are the rest of the players on this year's Dream Team:

Erik Ctvrtlik

Corona del Mar

Senior libero led the Sea Kings with his competitive fire and stellar defensive play. Ctvrtlik earned a share of the All-Pacific Coast League MVP award and second-team All-Orange County honors, and played in the Dave Mohs Orange County High School All-Star Match for seniors. He finished with 168 digs, 57 kills and 11 service aces. Ctvrtlik helped the Sea Kings repeat as undefeated league champions. Ctvrtlik's older brother, Joe, made the Dream Team last season as a senior setter.

Steven Duhoux

Newport Harbor

Senior setter gave the Sailors another scoring threat with his 6-foot-3 size and versatility on the court. Duhoux started the year at opposite before he moved to his natural position because of an injury to setter Scott Russell. He garnered first-team All-Sunset League and All-Orange County honorable mention recognition, and played in the Dave Mohs Orange County High School All-Star Match. Duhoux ran the offense at a high level, producing 564 assists, 115 kills and 47 blocks.

Peirce Ward

Newport Harbor

Junior outside hitter was one of the most consistent players and came on strong at the end of the season. Ward produced 13 kills in Newport Harbor's five-set win at CdM in the Battle of the Bay and another 13 kills in a near five-set upset at third-seeded San Clemente in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs. He recorded 223 kills and 24 blocks. Ward made the All-Sunset League first team and was an All-Orange County honorable mention.

Tommy Brooks

Corona del Mar

Junior middle blocker delivered his best performance in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs, almost lifting the Sea Kings past Bellflower St. John Bosco. Brooks recorded 15 kills on 23 attempts with five blocks and no hitting errors in a five-set loss on the road. He finished the season with 177 kills and 67 blocks. Brooks, who's 6-foot-3, earned first-team All-Pacific Coast League laurels. He's one of 11 players expected to return next year.

Joey Martino

Corona del Mar

Junior outside hitter turned into the biggest hitter on a young CdM team. Martino's play allowed the Sea Kings to finish the year strong, as they won 13 of their final 17 matches after a 6-6 start. He led CdM with 256 kills, to go with 81 digs, 43 blocks and 29 aces. Martino received first-team All-Pacific Coast League accolades after he contributed to CdM's undefeated league title and first-round victory in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

Clay Carr

Newport Harbor

Junior middle blocker provided the Sailors with another threat, with the opposition always having to account for Carr, who opened up the offense for other hitters. The 6-foot-6 Carr played a big role in Newport Harbor placing second in the Sunset League and advancing to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs for the second straight season. Carr finished with 142 kills and 24 blocks, earning him second-team All-Sunset League and Dream Team honors again.

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