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VOLLEYBALL / MIKE BRESNAHAN

LAAC Fittingly No. 1 but With a Footnote

July 06, 1996|MIKE BRESNAHAN

They might be playing barefoot, but they'll still be the top-seeded team at this weekend's Junior Olympics in San Jose.

Because of a shipping snafu, members of the Los Angeles Athletic Club team were shoeless when they arrived in San Jose.

Three boxes of volleyball shoes were supposed to be shipped downtown to the athletic club at West 7th Street. Instead, two of the boxes ended up at a West 17th Street address.

"Some guy in the heart of South Central got two cases of shoes," Coach Bill Ferguson said, "and he's pretty excited about it."

The only box that arrived at the athletic club had smaller-sized shoes that fit the coaches but not the players.

Ironically, the team was sponsored by Reebok last year but switched to LAAC for several reasons, one of which was Reebok's failure to deliver on product promises. Sound familiar?

At any rate, the team is prospering with its new sponsor, which allows the team to practice at LAAC three or four times a week.

"It's one of the best fitness centers ever," said middle blocker Joe Olsen, who was a two-time All-Marmonte League selection at Royal High.

Said Westlake High's Jason Lee: "It's a real hook-up."

If not really confusing.

"Some people call us L.A. Fitness," said Ferguson. "They say, who is this [L.A.] athletic club team? But they know who we are when we walk in and they see our players."

Crespi's Ryan Hill is on the team, along with University High's Raoul Williams, who recently signed to play at Cal State Northridge. Add San Clemente setter Brandon Taliaferro, who signed with UCLA, and it's easy to see why LAAC is the top-ranked club team in the nation.

A footnote: The shoe company has promised a new shipment, so hopefully those shoes know the way to San Jose.

*

Scan the roster of the Santa Monica Beach Club team. Definite pattern.

Jason Morrow, Rick Rauth, Trevor Julian, a.k.a. the Big Three at Harvard-Westlake, are all on the squad.

Morrow and Rauth were members of The Times' All-Region team. Now they're part of the fourth-seeded club team at the Junior Olympics.

Things went smoothly last week when Santa Monica beat Los Angeles Athletic Club during double elimination play of the Southern California Volleyball Assn. tournament. But LAAC came back and beat Santa Monica--twice--to win the SCVA title.

Still, the earlier victory made waves. "I think we surprised a lot of people," Morrow said. "A couple players came up and said, 'How are you guys winning?' I guess we don't look great, but we win."

At the 72-team Junior Olympics, Santa Monica will run into talented teams. There also is the possibility of another rematch with LAAC. But priority No. 1 is improving on last year's 11th-place finish.

"We screwed up pretty bad," Rauth said. "We ate it one day and that's what happens.

"We were all juniors [grade-wise] then. We're not little kids anymore. There is no next year."

*

When in doubt, go play golf.

During its off-day at the California-Davis Club tournament last week, the Zuma Bay Club played some miniature golf, which turned out to be a good call.

It was fun. Some team members rode bumper cars while others worked on their mini-strokes. Or tried to.

"One of the girls ended up hitting a ball over two courses," Coach Ron Higa said.

"She was a hole behind and ended up on our course, which is tough to do because she had to go up a hill and over 10 feet of grass."

The good times carried over to the volleyball court, where Zuma finished 11th among 256 teams.

"That's when we play our best . . . when we're having fun," said Crystal Crawford, who graduated from Thousand Oaks High last month.

*

Bro Richmond of Notre Dame High, an outside hitter who is of Polynesian descent, has spent the past few weeks vacationing in Tahiti and working out with the Tahitian national team.

If all goes as planned, Richmond will become a Tahitian team member in addition to playing for Cal State Northridge next season as a freshman. He would play for the Tahitians on a per-need basis, specifically during big tournaments.

"To be honest with you, he's probably one of their better players," said Bro's father, Branscombe, who has a hand in the organization of the quadrennial South Pacific Games.

The games, which include participants from Guam, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand among others next will be held in 1998.

Said Branscombe: "If you're an American, you say, 'What the hell are they?' But they do everything like the Olympics would. They have boxing, basketball and archery."

And, of course, volleyball.

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