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High School Volleyball Preview

It Might Not Be So Academic for University : Chatsworth Could Challenge Warriors for City 4-A Title


CHATSWORTH — In this decade, success in City Section boys' volleyball can be summed up in two words--University High.

The Warriors defeated Granada Hills last year for their third consecutive City 4-A championship and their fourth title of the 1990s.

Any streak-stopping team out there must have plenty of experience, height and ability.

Enter Chatsworth.

The Chancellors have two of the best middle blockers in the region, 6-foot-4 Christopher Wilson and 6-5 Stephen Wiessner, both seniors. They also have 6-6 senior outside hitter Omer Samiri and 6-4 transfer Kevin Dawes, an All-City 3-A outside hitter at Sylmar last year who will play opposite for Chatsworth.

As Wilson said, "We have people everywhere."

And like most good teams, they have their share of personalities.

Dawes, a senior, had shoulder-length hair since his junior high days, but recently chopped off eight inches. No reason, he just felt like it. But he draws the line there--he's not entertaining his teammates' desire to see his head shaved bald.

Then there's Wiessner, who sprained an ankle two weeks ago when he stepped in a hole while going to get the mail.

Next to Wiessner in the front will be Wilson, who can touch the top of the square on a basketball backboard. Said Chatsworth Coach Bud Dow: "There aren't a lot of human beings in the world that can do that."

Finally, there's newcomer Marreese (pronounced Maurice) Thomas, a 6-5 transfer from Detroit, who was looking good until he injured himself during practice . . . wrestling practice. Thomas will miss at least two weeks with a neck injury and might not return to the volleyball team.

Chatsworth had a similar cast last year, but was swept in the 4-A semifinals by Granada Hills, a team it beat twice during the regular season.

"When you have to play a team a third time, if you won them both [during the regular season], the third time's a kiss of death," said Dow, whose Chancellors (19-3) won the Northwest Valley Conference.

Taking the City title from University might be considered a longshot, especially since the Warriors have 6-6 UCLA-bound Mark Williams, one of the top high school players in the nation.

"Until I've seen them play, I don't want to make any predictions," Dow said. "They have five returning All-City 4-A players, I have two on paper. We're pretty far behind them."

But perhaps not that far.

University lost two key players to graduation, including Raoul Williams, who is using a redshirt season at Cal State Northridge.

The 4-A title door may be ajar.

"It's not sealed," Wiessner said. "There's no way we have [the title] and you can't give it to Uni. You can't give it to anybody yet."

Other region teams to watch:

* Royal: The Highlanders won the Marmonte League last season and return a strong core of seniors--6-4 setter John Baxter, 6-4 outside hitter Marc Chaffee, 6-5 middle blocker Ryan Denihan and 6-6 opposite hitter Nick Flanagan.

The Highlanders will be tested early--their first five matches are on the road and they play in the Dos Pueblos tournament.

* Harvard-Westlake: The Wolverines have 6-5 USC-bound outside hitter Trevor Julian, but there are some question marks. Rick Rauth, The Times' 1996 regional player of the year, and Jason Morrow are gone from a team that lost to eventual champion Mira Costa in the Division I semifinals.

* Hoover: The Tornadoes won their first Pacific League title last year and return 6-7 opposite hitter Nick Marbach and 6-4 middle blocker Andy Russell. Winless in league play two years ago, Hoover is a program on the rise.

* Canyon: The defending Foothill League champions, the Cowboys have size and experience in senior opposite hitter Kevin Kirk (6-3) and senior middle blocker Jason McMillen (6-4). Junior middle blocker Jimmy Giordano (6-2) could be a surprise.

* Granada Hills: The Highlanders, who lost in four games to University in last year's 4-A title match, return a trio of starters--6-3 Paul DiSimone, 6-1 Shawn Litchfield and 6-4 Achi Yaffe.



* THE PROVEN: Crespi's 6-foot-5 middle blocker Ryan Hill has committed to USC and, along with 6-5 opposite hitter James Spratt, should help the Celts make some noise in the rugged Mission League. Buena's 6-6 middle blocker Matt Prosser will play for Long Beach State next year, but needs support now if the Bulldogs are to compete in Channel League.

* THE PROMISING: He is not Ryan Millar, but some of the kills delivered by 6-5 Highland High senior middle blocker Tom Haight are reminiscent of the former Bulldog standout, who is playing for top-ranked BYU. Campbell Hall's 6-4 junior middle blocker Larry Cole will try to help the Vikings to a third consecutive appearance in the Division III semifinals.

* FAST FACT: Only two of eight coaches return in the Marmonte League--Royal's Bob Ferguson and Simi Valley's Erik Peterson.

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