It was just a matter of time before Laguna Beach High, a school steeped in a rich volleyball tradition, tried its hand in the sand.
For the first time, the school is fielding a girls’ sand volleyball team. The Breakers are in their second week of their inaugural season playing a sport that is not sanctioned by the CIF Southern Section.
Laguna is part of the Interscholastic Beach Volleyball League, which began in 2012, and added a boys’ IBVL season last year. The league works under the Amateur Athletic Union.
Laguna is one of 47 schools to participate in the league but has yet to send a boys’ team onto the sand.
Schools compete with three pairs of doubles teams in each match, and the league holds competition at both the varsity and junior varsity level.
“Sand Volleyball is the fastest growing NCAA sport,” Laguna Beach Athletic Director Mike Churchill said. “It is catching fire in the high schools, also.
“When the information about this new opportunity was presented, I just felt that this was something that we needed to embrace and nurture. We just felt that this was a perfect fit for Laguna Beach High School. Besides the obvious enthusiasm to compete in this sport, there will be increased access to college scholarships for our athletes. After all, doesn’t sand volleyball and Laguna Beach make a natural fit?”
Churchill said the plan is to “evaluate” the girls’ season and, “if all goes well,” form its first boys’ team in the fall.
Laguna Beach High girls’ volleyball coach Raul Papaleo heads the Laguna girls’ sand team. The first-year coach said he learned of the IBVL, registered Laguna for a spot in the league with approval of the Laguna Beach School District, and had the support of Churchill and Laguna Beach High Principal Joanne Culverhouse.
“I’m excited to start the first beach volleyball program at Laguna Beach High,” Papaleo said. ""We have a young squad of players with lots of talent.”
Papaleo said two tryouts were held in early-January and said that more than 30 girls came out. He said the eventual, 12-player squad is made up of players in Laguna’s indoor girls’ volleyball program.
The first Laguna Beach girls’ sand volleyball roster is made up of 12 players: juniors Briana Boyd, Sabrina Stillwell and Francie Holte, sophomores Cameron Dorn, Aspen Rocha, Katelyn Carballo, Claire Hockaday, Olivia Hockaday and Sage Patchell, and freshmen Kendyl Brennan, Lauren La Montange and Molly Flutter.
The Breakers hold practice sessions at Main Beach in Laguna Beach, and play matches at the Huntington Beach Pier.
Eight divisions make up the IBVL girls’ season and Laguna is part of the South Coast Division which also includes El Toro, Sage Hill and Saddleback Valley Christian.
The girls’ varsity spring season includes the following division: Riviera Division: Laguna Blanca, San Marcos, Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, Ventura; Marmonte Division: Agoura, Newbury Park, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Westlake; Mountain Division: La Canada, Oaks Christian, Trinity Classical, Valencia, Village Christian; Mission Division: Alemany, Flintridge Sacred Heart, Harvard-Westlake, Louisville, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame; Ocean Division: Culver City, El Segundo, Foothill Tech, Palisades Charter, Santa Monica; Bay Division: Mira Costa, Palos Verdes, Redondo Union, Serra, West Torrance; Westside Division: Archer School for Girls, Marymount, Notre Dame Academy, Pacifica Christian, Windward; Sunset Division: Edison, Huntington Beach, Marina, Long Beach Wilson; Orange Division: Foothill, Mater Dei, Santa Margarita, Tesoro; South Coast Division: El Toro, Laguna Beach, Saddleback Valley Christian, Sage Hill.
The Breakers have played two, season-opening matches to date. They were awarded a forfeit victory from Flintridge Sacred Heart (Mission Division), and defeated Santa Monica (Ocean Division). Laguna’s top team of Briana Boyd and Cameron Dorn won by scores of 21-8, 21-4, the No. 2 team of Claire Hockaday and Olivia Hockaday, took 21-6, 21-10 sets, and the No. 3 team of Kendyl Brennan and Lauren La Montange won, 21-9, 21-9.
Laguna plays two matches Saturday at the Huntington Beach Pier. The Breakers face host Huntington at 9 .m., then take on Mater Dei at 1 p.m.
(matches at Huntington Beach)
Saturday: (at Huntington Beach): vs. Huntington Beach, 9 a.m.; vs. Mater Dei, 1 p.m.
April 12 (at Huntington Beach): vs. Saddleback Valley Christian, 11 a.m.; vs. Sage Hill, 1 p.m.
April 19 (at Huntington Beach): vs. Sage Hill, 11 a.m.; vs. El Toro, 1 p.m..
April 26 (at Granada Beach, Long Beach): vs. Sage Hill, 11 a.m.; vs. Saddleback Valley Christian, 2 p.m.