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BOYS' VOLLEYBALL

Two-Sport Standout Helps El Dorado Rebound Nicely

April 10, 2001|MICHAEL ITAGAKI

El Dorado has taken control in the Empire League boys' volleyball race, and the Golden Hawks have done it with their best player sitting and a basketball player shining.

Senior Nick Lehnert should return to full-time duty this week after being sidelined three weeks with a broken radius and ulna in his left arm.

"He's our best all-around player," El Dorado Coach Roger Jocson said of Lehnert, a first-team all-league selection last season. "It'll be nice to have him back in there."

In Lehnert's absence, the Golden Hawks are doing just fine with middle blocker David Patten shouldering the load.

Patten, a 6-foot-8 junior, is averaging 35 kills in the Golden Hawks' four Empire League victories, helping El Dorado to a 9-3 record.

But Patten is already attracting attention from basketball recruiters, including Mike Montgomery of Stanford, Rick Majerus of Utah and Steve Fisher of San Diego State.

Patten averaged 15.5 points and seven rebounds last season and earned league co-MVP, second-team All-Southern Section Division I-A and Times' second-team all-county basketball honors.

"He's very skilled," said Tim Tivenan, El Dorado's basketball coach. "He's a great shooter, can handle the ball, he passes well, runs the floor well. As far as potential, he has bounds of it."

He is also showing plenty of potential on the volleyball court.

"One [college] assistant already told me they'd give David a volleyball scholarship," Jocson said. "He might be able to play both in college.

"He could be the best middle blocker in the county [by next season]. When teams have put three blockers up on him, David jumps so high he just puts it away. Even from the 10-foot line he's been consistent. He's carried us."

Patten's emergence has helped fill the temporary void left by Lehnert, a 6-3 outside hitter who is being recruited by schools including UC San Diego.

Lehnert, like Patten, starts for El Dorado's basketball team.

"Nick was our defensive stopper," Tivenan said. "He's really quick, has good anticipation, he's a good passer. He even played some point guard for us too. He literally played every position for us."

And Lehnert played all over the place too, including at a local church, where he suffered his broken arm during a pickup game last month.

"I broke my arm going up for a dunk," Lehnert said, "and somebody undercut me."

Jocson has since taken to ribbing Lehnert: "You're giving up basketball, right?"

But Lehnert's absence has provided an opportunity for others to step up, Jocson said.

Among those is junior Kevin Cook, playing his first volleyball season.

"He's from our basketball team," Jocson said. "But he's a great athlete. He's already one of our better passers."

Jocson's team is loaded with potential, and it's also young with only two seniors. Jocson had so many options, he converted Rob Steinberger, a 6-6 middle blocker, to setter this season.

Patten is enjoying this season, and he's not ready to give up volleyball although his future may be in basketball.

"If I played basketball year-round like some of my friends, I might get sick of it," Patten said. "I like volleyball, especially since I'm good at it and it's a lot of fun.

"And I want another [league title] patch."

The toughest challenge in the first round of league came from Century, which has its only loss in league to El Dorado. The Golden Hawks play Century again April 24 as they begin preparations for the postseason.

The playoffs figure to be tough for El Dorado, which plays in the Division III field that includes Santa Margarita, Newport Harbor, Mater Dei and Cerritos Gahr, which won the Division II title last season.

LOOKING AHEAD

Fountain Valley, ranked third in the county, will meet the only other undefeated team in the Sunset League at 5:30 tonight when the Barons will host seventh-ranked Marina, the three-time defending league champion.

Fountain Valley (6-2, 4-0) is led by Long Beach State-bound outside hitter Nate Hagstrom and Brigham Young-bound middle blocker Russell Holmes.

Marina (11-1, 4-0) has its own BYU-signee, middle blocker Steffin Rangel, and outside hitter Drew Wilson and setter Beau Peters also play key roles for the Vikings.

Thursday in the Sea View League, Irvine, ranked fifth in the county, plays at sixth-ranked Newport Harbor at 5:30 p.m. Irvine, which features UCLA signee Kris Kraushaar, edged Newport Harbor and USC-bound Blake Tippett in five games in the teams' first league meeting. Also Thursday in the South Coast, No. 4 Capistrano Valley plays at No. 9 San Clemente at 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday at 4 p.m., host Ocean View gets a rematch with league-leading Tustin, which handed Ocean View its only loss this season.

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

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

BOYS' VOLLEYBALL TOP 10

Orange County Sportswriters' Poll

*--*

Pos. School League Rec. 1. Santa Margarita (1) Serra 10-0 2. Foothill (2) Century 7-1 3. Fountain Valley (3) Sunset 6-2 4. Capistrano Valley (4) S. Coast 8-0 5. Irvine (5) Sea Vw. 8-1 6. Newport Harbor (6) Sea Vw. 4-4 7. Marina (7) Sunset 11-1 8. Mater Dei (8) Serra 5-3 9. San Clemente (NR) S. Coast 5-3 10. Edison (10) Sunset 5-5

*--*

Last week's rankings in parentheses

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