School Esperanza (Anaheim, Calif.)
The skinny: The UCLA-bound Arnitz helped Esperanza repeat as the CIF Southern Section Division II champion.
School Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.)
The skinny: Boehle finished the year with a team-best 325 kills and 43 aces, while hitting .320 en route to earning Mission League Player of the Year honors.
School Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.)
The skinny: This Stanford recruit hit .499 and finished his senior season with 311 kills and 188 digs, helping Berkeley win the state championship.
School Huntington Beach (Calif.)
The skinny: DeFalco, a name to keep an eye on in the future, had 17 kills to help the Oilers down Loyola in the CIF-SS regional final, capping a perfect 40-0 season.
School Kamehameha (Honolulu, Hawaii)
The skinny: This three-time all-state selection registered 28 kills and 20 digs in Kamehameha’s loss to Punahou in the state championship match.
School McQuaid Jesuit (Rochester, N.Y.)
The skinny: An all-state tournament selection, Harriman helped McQuaid Jesuit to a state runner-up finish and shared Player of the Year honors in the greater Rochester area.
School Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.)
The skinny: Paullin hit a blistering .600 with 145 kills on 190 swings and registered 55 blocks. “We went to him quite a bit,” Loyola coach Michael Boehle said. “With our guys in-system and on time and ready to go, he was pretty much unstoppable.”
School Wauwatosa East (Wauwatosa, Wis.)
The skinny: The Wisconsin Player of the Year set a school record with 540 kills this past season.
School Lincoln-Way East (Frankfort, Ill.)
The skinny: Royer helped lead Lincoln-Way East to a 41-1 record and its first Illinois High School Association state championship this spring.
School Buchanan (Clovis, Calif.)
The skinny: Samarin finished the year with 328 digs, 120 kills, and 35 aces for a Buchanan squad that won the CIF Central Section Division I championship.
School Huntington Beach (Calif.)
The skinny: BYU recruit Sander was a key cog in Huntington Beach’s repeat CIF Southern Section regional title.
**Player of the Year**
School Punahou (Honolulu, Hawaii)
The skinny: Tuileta, who will play football and volleyball at USC, had 16 kills and 22 digs in Punahou’s state-championship win over Kamehameha. Tuileta was part of three Punahou state-title teams.
Ht. | Pos. | Year | School
Karl Apfelbach | 6'8" | Opp. | Sr. | Shorewood (Wis.)
Tyler Bird | 6'2" | L | Sr. | Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.)
Alec Flowers | 6'6" | MB/OH | Sr. | Mountain View (Calif.)
Kyle Foley | 6'4" | S | Sr. | St. John Vianney (Kirkwood, Mo.)
Brad Gretsch | 6'5" | MB | Sr. | La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.)
JT Hatch | 6'2" | S | Sr. | Mesa (Ariz.)
Jeff Jendryk | 6'8" | MB | Sr. | St. Francis (Wheaton, Ill.)
Matthew Nortmann | 6'4" | MB | Sr. | Elder (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Ben Oxnard | 5'9" | OH/L | Sr. | Esperanza (Anaheim, Calif.)
David Parker | 6'1" | OH | Sr. | Whitney (Rocklin, Calif.)
Josh Phalen | 5'11" | L | Sr. | Lincoln-Way East (Frankfort, Ill.)
Lee Smith | 6'4" | OH | Sr. | Ambridge Area (Ambridge, Pa.)
Ht. | Pos. | Year | School
Royce Clemens | 6'2" | OH | Sr. | Central York (York, Pa.)
Travis O’Gorman | 6'3" | OH | Sr. | Northport (N.Y.)
Luke Owens | 6'7" | MB | Sr. | Kalaheo (Kailua, Hawaii)
Drew Pion | 6'2" | OH | Sr. | Windward (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Vinny Pizzuti | 6'3" | OH | Sr. | Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.)
Kekoa Pukahi | 6'3" | S | Sr. | La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.)
Louis Richard | 6'6" | OH | Sr. | Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.)
Michael Simmons | 6'4" | OH | Sr. | Waubonsie Valley (Aurora, Ill.)
Jake Stuebner | 6'3" | OH/Opp. | Sr., Mountain View (Calif.)
Nick Talbot | 6'2" | OH | Jr. | St. Xavier (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Jake Walenga | 6'1" | OH | Sr. | Lincoln-Way North (Frankfort, Ill.)
Mitch Weiler | 6'4" | OH | Sr. | Brother Rice (Chicago, Ill.)
Larry “Tui” Tuileta Leaves His Mark at Hawaii Power Punahou
Punahou School’s Larry “Tui” Tuileta didn’t have typical Player of the Year-type numbers this season.
In fact, the senior outside hitter didn’t even lead his Honolulu-based team in kills. But it was in other categories, such as leadership, where Tuileta was first-class. Tuileta’s veteran presence and superb passing ability helped the Buff ’n Blue win the program’s third state championship in a row, eighth in the last 10 years, and 32nd in program history. He finishes his prep career as the 2014 Volleyball Boys’ High School Player of the Year.
“Tui always has carried a big load for us,” said Punahou coach Rick Tune. “He’s someone who always is going to pull us through a tough situation.”
Tune said Tuileta’s greatest asset from a skill standpoint is his passing. Tuileta graded out around a 2.75 on a 3.0 passing scale this season.
“He settles down our serve-receive formation,” Tune said. “Knowing we have a guy that confident, it projects to the rest of the passers. Tui is one of the best passers I have ever coached.”
Tuileta takes the passing part of the game extremely seriously. “Passing is very important,” he said. “It’s how you will win a match. Passing was a big emphasis this year for us.”
Tune said Tuileta’s lack of monster statistical numbers has zero bearing on his importance to the team.
“In our system, the ball gets spread around to multiple places on the court,” Tune said. “It’s tougher for a hitter to stand out. He’s capable of that and could have stood out. Tui contributes in every facet of the game. Every time he touches the ball we have a chance to score a point and do something special.”
And then there is the leadership part of the equation for this first-team all-state selection who was named league Player of the Year twice during his tenure at Punahou.
“Tui is someone who mentors a lot of the younger kids,” Tune said. “He lives the kind of life an athlete should live on and off the court. He’s about family and doing well in school. Those are things that really drive him. It’s been nice to be able to coach a player with those types of values. What he does best is pull kids in and create a sense of community. Kids love being around him. They rally around him. They love his presence and poise and genuine approachability.”
Tuileta was happy to be a leader in the program. “I wanted to help the younger guys,” he said. “I shared my volleyball experience with them and helped them play at a state-championship level for us. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s nice that other people look to me for help and advice. A big part of being a leader is helping other people get better.”
Tuileta started in the game by watching his mom and dad play beach volleyball. “I would pass the ball around with other kids on the beach,” he said. “And then one of my friends suggested I come out for club volleyball.”
Tuileta has come a long way in the sport, but volleyball isn’t Tuileta’s only passion. He quarterbacked the Punahou football team to a state championship last fall and won the state Gatorade High School Football Player of the Year award. He’ll play both sports at USC.
“I don’t have a favorite sport,” he said. “I like them both and don’t really prefer one over the other.”
Tuileta is looking forward to the challenge of balancing two collegiate sports at one of the most well-known universities when it comes to athletics.
“It’s going to be a lot more work,” he said, “but I’m ready to start a new chapter.”
Tuileta closed the previous chapter with a third state championship earlier this spring.
“This one meant a lot,” he said. “With volleyball at Punahou there is a line of state championships. Being able to add on our part to that legacy makes it really special.”
Oil Boom: Undefeated Huntington Beach earns repeat honor
The Huntington Beach High School boys’ team had quite a 2013 season, going 34-2 and winning the California Interscholastic Federation section and regional titles.
So what did Huntington Beach do for an encore? They went for a perfect 40-0, losing only six sets all season, and repeated as CIF Southern Section Division I and CIF Southern California Regional Division I champions (both times defeating Loyola High School out of Los Angeles).
And in a no-brainer decision, Volleyball has chosen the Oilers as repeat winners of the Boys’ High School Team of the Year honor.
“We had six guys who played deep into the playoffs for us last year,” said Huntington Beach coach Craig Pazanti, who was named the 2014 Volleyball Boys’ High School Coach of the Year. “We had some lofty goals going into this season. How do you top what we did last year? We certainly couldn’t finish any better in the standings. But we could not lose a match the entire season.”
That core group of returning players included the likes of senior outside hitter Brenden Sander, senior libero Jake Weiser, senior middle blocker Ryan Morrissey, and standout junior outside hitter TJ DeFalco. Junior defensive specialist Blake Diamond and senior middle blocker Drake Evans also logged significant time last season.
“There was a real familiarity between us,” Sander said. “We had that strong connection from last year and that helped us work together as a team this year.”
Sander admitted there was some pressure on the group after winning the state title last year. “We had a big act to follow from last year,” he said. “Everybody wanted to beat us. There was some pressure to win each and every game. One of our goals was to have an undefeated season.”
The Oilers also benefitted from the presence of new setter Joshua Tuaniga, who joined the team in April after sitting out part of the season due to CIF transfer rules. Tuaniga played at St. John Bosco in Bellflower, California, last year.
“He’s one of the best setters around,” said Pazanti. “If we had a weakness going into the season it was depth at setter, and that changed when he came here.”
Pazanti noted Huntington Beach won three major tournaments using three different setters. Before Tuaniga was eligible to play, sophomore Tanner Woods helped the Oilers win the Best of the West tournament and did so after breaking two fingers in the first play in the first match of the tournament. Junior libero Davis Gillett then set the Oilers to the Orange County title. Tuaniga was at the helm when the team won the Redondo Power Classic.
“A lot of our success had to do with having so much depth,” Pazanti said. “Our practices were so competitive every day. Guys could always be on the brink of losing their starting positions. These guys worked so hard in practice, and their focus definitely was there as we got later into the season.”
Evans added: “We had such a big drive to get better at practice. That was one of the main things that helped us. We had a lot of talent in our gym. We were playing against the best competition every day in practice.”
Weiser, who specifically lauded the efforts of Diamond from the service line, said that by the end of the season, pressure turned into confidence.
“We knew we had a target on our back,” he said. “We had so much confidence at the end of the year. We knew what we had to do in order to win.”
The result was an undefeated championship season.
Huntington Beach’s Craig Pazanti Pushes All the Right Buttons
Huntington Beach High School boys’ volleyball coach Craig Pazanti’s biggest contributions to the team this season weren’t necessarily X’s-and-O’s related.
Yes, Pazanti played a key role this spring in the Oilers winning their second consecutive CIF Southern Section title and second-straight CIF Southern California regional crown. The 2014 Volleyball Boys’ High School Coach of the Year directed Huntington Beach to a perfect 40-0 mark, stretching the program’s winning streak to 64 matches.
But his most masterful job as head coach was keeping an Oilers team loaded with high-powered talent all on the same page throughout a season where the expectations and pressures continued to mount with each win in the most competitive state for boys’ high school volleyball in the country. And he did that with aplomb.
“Craig kept us all together,” Huntington Beach senior middle blocker Drake Evans said. “We have a lot of good players and sometimes skill can get to your head. Craig did a great job keeping us levelheaded and that really helped us.”
Pazanti used the comparison of legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson. “I have a better understanding of what he did with the Lakers and the Bulls. He was able to get his teams to play together. We have a lot of alpha males on the team and there’s only one ball. Everybody wants to get their kills. The big thing was keeping everybody on the same page.”
Pazanti said this year’s group didn’t need a tremendous amount of skills coaching. “This team was pretty talented,” he said. “With or without a coach they would have won most of their matches. We’re not reinventing the wheel here. What I did is put together the best game plans possible and put the best athletes in the right spots. I enjoy the strategy part of the game and finding ways to win.”
Pazanti’s nuanced style was not lost on the players.
“Coach lets you figure things out for yourself,” senior outside hitter Brenden Sander said. “If you are not having a good practice, it’s on you to pick it up. He still coaches us, but he gives you that freedom. He pushed us to be better every single day. He meant a lot to this team this year.”
Huntington Beach senior libero Jake Weiser also gave his coach two thumbs up for the job he did this spring. “He was amazing,” said Weiser. “We had so many top players and a lot of egos. He did an amazing job of keeping everybody together as a team and making sure we played how we needed to play. It couldn’t be about the individual. It had to be about the team, and he did a real good job of making sure we knew that.”
Winning two state championships has extra meaning for Pazanti, who is a Huntington Beach graduate and was an assistant coach under former Oilers boys’ coach Rocky Ciarelli from 1991 to 1996. Pazanti just completed his sixth season as the Oilers’ head coach.
“It’s a dream come true being at Huntington Beach,” he said. “It’s my final destination at this point. I was an Oilers fan growing up. This is one of the programs that has been successful throughout the last 25 years. I’ve come back to my roots.”
In addition to coaching at Huntington, Pazanti also did a stint with the Baylor University women’s program and was the head boys’ and girls’ coach at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California. His career coaching record, boys and girls combined, is 461-173 (a .727 winning percentage). Coaching is something Pazanti tracks back to his playing days at his alma mater.
“Even when I played, my role was as an extension of the coaches,” he said. “I wasn’t the best player, but I was into the strategy of the game. Rocky was my mentor. I always was interested in what was going on behind the scenes.”
And in front of the curtain, Pazanti has put together quite a presentation the last two years.
Originally published in August 2014