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HIGH SCHOOL BOYS' VOLLEYBALL

Lucero Is Leaving Marina, Hoping to Go Out on Top

March 07, 2000|MIKE ITAGAKI

It hardly came as a surprise, but Marina boys' volleyball Coach Darrick Lucero made it official.

"You can put it down, this is my last season here at Marina," the eighth-year coach said.

Lucero, who spent his first season as Vanguard University's women's volleyball coach, said he wants to devote all his time and attention to that program but also feels a sense of loyalty to the Vikings.

"It's hectic right now," Lucero said. "To try to do both would be too much. Plus, eventually, we'd like to get a men's program going at Vanguard too."

But it's easy to see why Lucero wanted to stick around. The Vikings have one of the most talented teams in the county, led by Long Beach State signees Jeff Wootton and Rob Kijewski, both outside hitters.

"You hardly ever get one junior national team member on a high-school team," Lucero said. "But to have two? This is the best team I've had here. It always seems like we were one or two players away, but now we don't have a big weakness."

Adding to the potent mix are middle blockers Stefan Rangel, a 6-foot-6 transfer from Aliso Niguel, and Layton Bowles, a 6-2 junior standout from Marina's football team. Other key returners include setter Beau Peters, who is 6-3, and Thang Nguyen, who Lucero said is one of the best defensive specialists he's ever coached.

"We've lost to Newport Harbor in the playoffs the last two years," Lucero said. "And sure, we're the ones people are looking at now as a favorite and, yes, we have what I think is a real good team.

"But we're going to have to prove it. We have to prove that we can beat teams like Newport Harbor or Corona del Mar."

VAQUERO WATCH

Irvine Coach Mark Mednick, in his 10th season, also said he has one of his better teams. On paper, it's easy to see why, considering among his returners is 6-3 outside hitter B.J. Fell, who has signed with UC Irvine.

But the Vaqueros have plenty of other weapons too. Zach Jardine is a 6-7 left-hander who plays opposite and Jesse Waldowski (6-4) and Jay Jensen (6-5) are among the middle blockers who give Irvine even more size.

And there's junior Kris Kraushaar, a 6-6 outside hitter who may turn out to be the team's most dangerous attacker. At his current rate of improvement, he figures to be one of the county's top recruits next season.

A key for the Vaqueros will be the development of setters Justin Marayag, a three-year varsity player who is a senior, and John Petrilla, a junior who started for the junior varsity last season.

LOOKING AHEAD

Although the Orange County Championships aren't for another week, the county's top teams are busy.

One of the best matches features Corona del Mar, which reached the Division I final, hosting Capistrano Valley on Wednesday. The Sea Kings are without their basketball players, who begin the state tournament tonight, but still have starters Greg Stampley and Evan Burden ready. Capistrano Valley is led by UCLA-bound Paul Johnson.

Also on Wednesday, San Diego State-bound Matt Wendt leads Huntington Beach at El Toro, led by UC Irvine-bound Kyle Martin. Friday, Huntington Beach plays host to San Clemente, which features UCLA signee Gray Garrett.

If you have an item or idea for the boys' volleyball report, you can fax us at (714) 966-5663 or e-mail us at: mike.itagaki@latimes.com

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