YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

STARTING TO DIG IT : Foothill's Fledgling Volleyball Team Won't Be in the Playoffs, but There's Always Next Year . . . or the Next

May 09, 1988|STEVE LOWERY | Times Staff Writer

The Southern Section boys' volleyball playoff pairings will be announced today and Foothill High School will not be mentioned.

Foothill ended its first full-fledged season last Friday, losing to Estancia, 15-13, 15-7, 15-7, in front of about 70 fans at home.

The record will show the team had an 8-8 record, respectable considering Foothill's baptism by fire in the Sea View League, one of Southern California's most competitive.

The Knights went 2-8 in league play, both victories against Tustin, another first-year team in the league.

What is not so apparent is what the team has gone through.

The Foothill team actually got its start in 1987 when a student petition convinced school officials there was a need for a team.

Craig Moothart, a professional beach volleyball player, was named coach and Tuan Cow was made his assistant as well as junior varsity coach.

When they held their first tryout, close to 100 boys showed up.

"They grouped us by age and put us through some real basic stuff," said Mike Crowell, who was a sophomore at the time.

Crowell was one of the few at the tryout who had any real volleyball experience. Tom Lee, a senior who developed into one of Foothill's best players this season, took up the sport a few months before the tryout, teaching himself to play at a local park because, "there was nothing else to do."

After three tryouts, cuts were made. Those left had two weeks to prepare for Foothill's first season as a club team.

"We couldn't work on plays, just bump, set and hit," Cow said.

Games were difficult to come by. Moothart busied himself trying to organize what amounted to pickup matches. Crowell recalls showing up for a Monday practice with no idea when or if there would be another match.

"Then, on Wednesday, you'd hear you had a game Thursday," he said. "So you say, 'Great. Who are we going to play?"

Practice time in the Foothill gymnasium was sometimes just as hard to come by. For about two weeks in 1987, the gym was declared off limits to the team because of a production of the musical "Oklahoma!"

Unable to find another gym, the team did not practice for the two weeks.

"We'd meet at lunch and talk, but that's about it," Lee said. "It was a pretty bad situation. Here we are just starting out and we're not even practicing."

The situation didn't necessarily get better this season. The team missed several practices again after being pushed out of the gym.

"You get the feeling that you are a last priority around here," said Jeff Janis, the varsity's only sophomore player.

Crowell said: "If I told a teacher I had to leave class early to go to a volleyball game, they'd say, 'Volleyball?"

Boys' volleyball is one of the fastest growing sports in the Southern Section. Twenty schools have added it to their athletic programs in the past two years.

But at some schools, the sport may still be considered only a beach activity, not in the same class as football or basketball.

"The sport will make it there if the kids don't get discouraged," said Dan Glenn, coach of defending 4-A champion Newport Harbor, a member of the Sea View League. "Volleyball will eventually sell itself, but it's hard getting started at a school where it's not necessarily a cool sport.

"At our school, the players are looked up to, but at an inland school you might get laughed at."

Foothill went undefeated (8-0) in its nonleague season, which may be a step toward more respect. Another may have come when Foothill took a game from Newport Harbor, 15-13, though losing the match to the Sailors, 3-1.

"We had seen those guys play before and they scared us so much," Crowell said. "They are so good. I thought we'd get killed. But for that one game I felt like we were in control in this league."

About playing in this venerable league, players say they were a bit scared. But, they figure, if they're going to learn the game they might as well learn against some of the best.

"I notice the kids really get up for the league games," Cow said. "They're big games. I think the kids see what you need to do to be winner by playing against those teams."

Besides Newport Harbor, the league contains perennial power Corona del Mar and University, reputedly the tallest team in the Southern Section with a starting lineup that includes players 6-8, 6-5, 6-5, 6-4 and 6-3.

Looking beyond raw talent, the major difference between Foothill and the league's top teams is the communication that teammates develop as they progress through a stable program.

"When we played them, I noticed that they weren't better athletes than we were," Crowell said. "They just worked better as a team. They had all that time together."

Los Angeles Times Articles