The Woodbridge High School boys' volleyball team, as steeped in tradition as Notre Dame baseball, met something of a local legend Saturday night in the finals of the Orange County Volleyball Championships at Fountain Valley High. The Warriors, who have yet to reach the Southern Section playoffs in their five-year history, faced Laguna Beach, once the proud holder of three straight championships.
There was a time when Laguna Beach could win this match practically on name alone, especially when the name on the opponents' jerseys read "Woodbridge."
"We've been playing them for four years, and we've been kicking their butts for four years," Laguna Beach Coach Bill Ashen said. "But they've learned a lot. They've become a very good team."
As it turned out, Woodbridge still has a little to learn. Laguna Beach won, 15-4, 11-15, 15-6, to claim the tournament title for the second time in the last three years. But, if nothing else, the Warriors' appearance in the finals of this 20-team tournament suggests there is more to Orange County volleyball than just two or three superior teams.
When these teams met earlier in the Sea View League opener, Woodbridge won the fifth game of a 3 1/2-hour match, 18-16. It was apparent then that the Warriors' doormat days were over.
"Five of these kids have been varsity players since they were sophomores," Woodbridge Coach Steve Stratos said. "And three of those five have been varsity since their freshman years. They've been getting beaten up on for quite some time."
But the championship match was anything but a mugging. After losing the first game, the Warriors, led by all-tournament selection Scott Burch and senior outside hitter Matt Cryer, rallied to win the second game and perhaps stir memories of the come-from-behind win in the league opener. Laguna Beach, led by Kurt Blanton, the tournament's most valuable player, and senior outside hitter Mike Stafford, took an 8-3 lead in the third game, however, and tradition finally won.
"Woodbridge was in it until halfway through the third game," Ashen said. "I think they might have had tougher matches during the day than we had. Things just went our way."
Laguna Beach didn't exactly waltz into the final. The Artists had to beat Edison, a team that had swept them in pool play, in the quarterfinals. A 15-10 win there led to a 15-1 rout of Estancia in the semifinals. Woodbridge reached the championship with a 15-8 quarterfinal win over Corona del Mar and a 15-10 victory over Dana Hills in the semifinals.
Joining Blanton and Burch on the all-tournament team were: Adam Lockwood (Estancia), Adam Mathieu (Dana Hills), Andy Allison (Newport Harbor), Chris Carpenter (Edison) and Carlos Briceno (Fountain Valley).