Mira Costa high school is located in iconic Manhattan Beach, and some of its famous beach volleyball alumni include 2000 gold-medalist Eric Fonoimoana, three-time Olympian Holly McPeak, 2021 Olympian Alix Klineman, and plenty of AVP standouts, including Barb Fontana and Lisa Arce.
And this year’s roster for the Southern California school had a significant volleyball heritage of its own. Charlie Fuerbringer, for example, is the daughter of Long Beach State indoor coaches Joy and Matt Fuerbringer, and Priscilla Loiola is the daughter of 2000 Olympian Jose Loiola.
They’re all part of a high school program that hasn’t lost a match since 2012.
The 2021 Mustangs won the California beach volleyball state championship and finished their season 19-0 under coach Nancy Mason, herself a former AVP standout from 1994 to 2010, with 23 podium finishes.
“No credit of my own, these girls are super-talented,” Mason said, noting that this year was extra-special after COVID canceled the 2020 championships.
“This year was extra special because of COVID. We typically don’t have a fall beach season because so many players play both indoor and beach. But because there was no indoor, we were able to follow all of the protocols to have a fall season.”
Mira Costa is located in the South Bay, one of the world’s beach volleyball hotbeds, and has also benefited from top-level coaching.
Naturally, NCAA coaches recruit Mira Costa. Of the team’s five seniors this season, Natalie Myszkowski and Madeline Bonanni are UCLA-bound, while Ava Gallien is going to NCAA champion USC. Alexa Langlois is headed to Tulane and Priscilla Loiola to Ottawa University.
Three juniors are college commits, Molly Trodd and Simone Gibson (Tulane) and Jenna Colligan (Cal-Berkeley).
In the IBVL, three pairs compete. Gallien and Myszkowski were the No. 1 pair.
“They were great, great leaders. Great competitors, great role models for the younger girls, and created a team atmosphere, which is hard to do with a beach team in high school,” Mason said. “I’m super proud of them, and really lucky to have them in the program.
“They’re very, very competitive, but very low-key and kind. They’re very similar in personalities, usually you have a yin and a yang, but they got along very well and were very even-keeled and handled any kind of pressure exceptionally well.”
Freshman Charlie Fuerbringer and senior Bonanni competed in the No. 2 slot.
“They stepped into the programs as freshmen and were great volleyball players and athletes,” Mason said.
“Sometimes at that age, it’s hard not to step on anyone’s toes, but they handled that situation well, and it was a credit both to them and to the upperclassmen that they made the transition easy.
“They’re going to have a phenomenal career.”
Juniors Jenna Colligan and Molly Trodd played at No. 3.
“Jenna and Molly were steady,” Mason said. “They just took care of business no matter what. I don’t think that any of their matches were ever close. Molly improved a lot offensively, and they both have great ball control, and played well together.”
Mira Costa competed in the Orange County Beach Volleyball League (OCBVL), which plays five pairs to IBVL’s three, so the lineup also included Madelyn Bonanni, Simone Gibson, Kelly Sussman, and Alexa Langlois.
In the IBVL state semifinals May 5 at Dockweiler State Beach against Chaminade, Mira Costa dropped just one set, with wins from No. 1 pair Gallien and Myszkowski (21-10, 16-21, 15-11), No. 2 Fuerbringer and Inskeep (21-3, 21-5), and No. 3 Sussman and Gibson (21-7, 21-18).
Then the Mustangs faced long-time rival Redondo Union, coached by Mark Paaluhi. Mira Costa had defeated Redondo Union in the district final, but both squads were incomplete because players had to miss for indoor competitions.
In the state final, both teams were at full strength and Costa dropped only one set, as Gallien and Myszkowski (21-19, 21-17), Fuerbringer and Bonanni (21-14, 19-21, 15-4), and Trodd and Colligan prevailed (21-9, 21-11).
“Redondo is really good,” Mason said. “They’re young, and they’re already really good. We had some tight matches, it was really exciting. It was competitive and challenging.”
Mira Costa has now won 122 matches in a row, a streak that started in 2012. That includes all four years they could play for a state title.
“The girls, they all want to keep the streak alive,” Mason said. “It’s super-stressful for our girls … I can’t speak enough to the pressure they put on themselves to keep the streak alive, but I feel the pressure inside of me, too.
“Of course we want to win the championship, and that’s the goal, but we don’t want to be the one to break the streak.”
“They were fun and silly and committed and cohesive,” Mason said. “They got together outside of practices, from the seniors all the way down to the freshmen. And whether they were just hanging out or going down to the beach, they built a very cohesive group.”