Dillon Klein of Loyola is the player of the year, Jonah Carson of St. Francis is the coach of the year, and the top team is Newport Harbor:
When it comes to boys high school and club volleyball in this country, the attention quickly turns to Southern California — and rightfully so.
That region has pumped out countless future superstars over the years, both indoors and outdoors. And when it comes to the 2022 boys high school scene, the same remained true this spring (more on that in a bit).
But something special also was brewing in the Bay Area, where St. Francis High School of Mountain View, California, about 15 miles north of San Jose, won both CIF Central Section and CIF NorCal regional titles under the direction of semi-homegrown coach Jonah Carson.
Carson is deservedly our 2022 VolleyballMag.com boys high school coach of the year. He’s part of a clean Cali sweep with our boys high school awards.
Loyola High School (Los Angeles, California) senior Dillon Klein is our player of the year (after earning the top-recruit status in our previously released 2022 Boys Fab 50 list), and Newport Harbor High School of Newport Beach, California, walks away with our team of the year award, replicating what St. Francis did up north with CIF Southern Section and SoCal Division I regional titles.
Back to Carson and his Lancers squad, which went 38-2 on their way to winning West Coast Athletic League, CCS and NorCal titles.
A Dallas, Texas-area native, Carson played at UC Santa Cruz (a 35-mile jaunt south from Mountain View) under now George Mason men’s head coach Jay Hosack, and then returned to coach his Banana Slugs alma mater for six years. Carson then moved on to be an assistant at Pacific under Joe Wortmann before landing at St. Francis, where he teaches English.
“I wanted to be at a value-based institution and St. Francis has a lot of good qualities,” said Carson, who also is the boys director at Mountain View Volleyball Club.
Carson has now won three CCS titles at St. Francis and is enjoying his first NorCal regional crown. It was St. Francis’ second NorCal title and sixth CCS title in program history.
“It was three years of grinding together and developing a team and a group of guys that really wanted to be great,” he said. “We won CCS in 2021 and in 202 we felt we had a good, young team, but we got cut short because of COVID. We started talking then about the opportunity we had as a group and how good we could be.
“The guys really bought into it. Everyone had a lot of challenges going on through COVID with academics, social-skill wise and athletics. Our guys did an incredible job coming into the gym and giving it their best effort and learning how to get better. We had a group of guys that figured out how to play well together, and that is pretty cool.”
St. Francis’ beat in-town Mountain View High School for both the CCS and NorCal regional titles. The Lancers’ only two losses came to Mater Dei (Santa Ana, California) in the Best of the West tournament and to Mountain View in the final of the Bellarmine tournament in San Jose — a contest where St. Francis was missing two starters. Carson feels that match may have been the turning point for this group.
“We had some role players step up and help us win some really big matches, one against Servite to get us to the finals,” Carson explained. “Even though we lost in the finals, I think that tournament solidified our belief that we are good and we can win matches where everybody on the team has to contribute. That showed us we had a really special team. That Bellarmine tournament set a pretty high standard for us and it paid off in CCS and Nor Cal.”
Carson’s team also was loaded with frontline talent.
Senior 6-8 middle blocker Ethan Watson was the WCAL player of the year and earned 2022 VolleyballMag.com All-American first-team honors. He’s headed to Pepperdine.
Senior outside hitter Jerry Feng (VBM All-American second team), senior setter Ryan Morey (headed to Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin) and junior outside hitter Jack Ebertin (committed to USC) also played key roles, as did senior libero Joe Wallace (son of former Santa Clara women’s head coach Jon Wallace). Wallace, a 2022 VBM honorable-mention All-American pick, is uncommitted at the moment.
“Joe Wallace is a stud libero,” Carson said. “Someone will pick him up. He’s too good.”
St. Francis, which was also shorthanded in the CIF playoffs, played the vast majority of the season without 6-9 senior middle and UCLA commit Chris Hersh, who was injured early-on.
“Jonah is directly responsible for our success,” Ebertin said, “not only bringing in a great group of guys to the program, but also developing us as players. He does a great job teaching the basic skills and making tactical decisions throughout the season. I think he’s a great coach because he finds unique ways in practice to prepare us for matches. He does a good job firing the team up for important games, but also stays calm and collecting when we are struggling.”
Carson said he a group this season that got it done both in and out of the classroom.
“There were good with the academics, but we also had savvy volleyball guys on this team,” he said. “We got this group together and looked around and said, ‘Hey, we are a special team.’ I have been coaching long enough where you can feel it and the guys felt it. The started to believe it. They looked around and said we can be pretty good. They had that understanding and they pulled it together.”
Loyola’s Klein, our 2022 VolleyballMag.com boys high school player of the year, was named the CIF Southern Section Division I co-player of the year along with Newport Harbor 6-7 senior middle blocker James Eadie.
Klein, inbound to USC, is the grandson of former Trojans and Los Angeles Rams tight end Bob Klein. His father, Jimmy, played football and volleyball at Stanford, while his aunt, Kristin Klein Keefe, was a four-time Stanford women’s volleyball All-American and was the 1991 national player of the year. Cousins Caitlin and Michaela Keefe played on Stanford volleyball teams that won three NCAA titles (2016, 2018 and 2019).
Klein, a 6-4 outside hitter, helped perennial national power Loyola advance to the finals of both the CIF Southern Section and SoCal championships, losing to Newport Harbor both times.
Speaking of Newport Harbor, coach Eric Vallely’s squad won its final eight matches of the season that included a couple of return-the-favor-type victories. Harbor’s last loss came on April 5 to Los Alamitos in five on the road. The Sailors avenged that loss in the opening round of the Southern Section Division I playoffs. Harbor also lost to Loyola earlier in the season, but got that win back with a hard-fought five-setter in the Southern Section final and then swept the Cubs to win the SoCal regional title on their home surface.
Jake Read, who is joined on the VBM All-American first team by teammates Eadie and Curci, had 18 kills in the SoCal final, while Curci had 12 and Eadie ended with seven kills and five blocks, giving Harbor its second regional title in program history and first since 2019.
Loyola’s Klein is joined on the VBM All-American first team by teammate and senior setter Ryan Sprague, while senior outside Owen Loncar and senior middle blocker Ryan Vena rep the Cubs on the second team.
The remainder of the All-American first team includes St. Louis-area standout Ethan Jennings (Parkway West), Mountain View senior outside Patrick Kane, suburban Chicago junior Jakobi Lange, and Hawai’i product Aidan Tune (of perennial island power Punahou), along with Phoenix product Zach Rama (Sandra Day O’Connor High) and Florida state star Ryan Peluso.
Rama, if you recall, was the runner-up to Loyola’s Klein as the top two recruits in the 2022 VolleyballMag.com Boys Fab 50 list, while the Long Beach State-bound Peluso helped lead his Winter Park (Florida) team to a state title and was named 2022 Florida Mr. Volleyball. Peluso surpassed the 1,000 career barrier in kills, assists and digs at the Orlando-area school.
O’Connor, with multiple Fab 50 selections on the roster, went 44-0 and won the Arizona 6A state title. Rama finished with 447 kills as the Eagles’ top pin option and hit .440. The Eagles also were strongly considered for national team of the year honors.