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Trabuco Hills Boys Not at a Loss Anymore

April 06, 2002|Christina Teller

Good things come to those who wait. Just ask the Trabuco Hills boys' volleyball team.

The Mustangs have won more matches this season than they had in the past four years combined. En route to their 7-1 record, the Mustangs defeated Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley and Lake Forest El Toro for the first time in school history.

"Before this year, we were something like 6-50. We just really struggled," Coach Craig Moothart said. "We used to go into games just hoping that nobody would get hurt. Now, we step on the court and know we can beat anybody."

Why the big turnaround? One word: leadership.

Players John Kupper and Tyler Whalen honed their volleyball and leadership skills by playing club volleyball in the off-season."John has really pushed everyone to win," Whalen said. "He has been on varsity two years before this, and he was tired of losing. Last year, we'd be losing and he'd be giving up on us. But this year, he always knows we can come back at any time."

Moothart, a former 10-year member of the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals tour, encouraged the players to make a bigger commitment to volleyball in the off-season through strength training, lifting weights daily in the fall and practicing plyometrics to improve their jumping ability. During the season, he has emphasized mental preparedness by having the players go through visualizations before games.

Going into the season, the Mustangs knew they had a chance to win more matches this year, with key players in their second and third years on varsity. They won the Division II title at the Orange County Championships by defeating Santa Ana Foothill, 15-1, 16-14, 15-13. Only days earlier, the Knights had handed the Mustangs their first and only loss of the season.

"That win really made us believe in ourselves," Whalen said. "We showed them that we're better, and we showed people we're a good team."

No one is more excited about the Mustangs' success than Joe Ochoa and Nate Cruz, former Trabuco Hills volleyball players who coach the school's freshman team.

"[The coaches are] so happy for these guys," Moothart said. "They were here when the team couldn't win a game, and now they're living vicariously through this year's team."

A South Coast League title had never been a realistic goal for Trabuco Hills before this season, but that's no longer out of reach.

All for one: Even without its best player, Santa Ynez (10-0) finished tied for fifth in the Dos Pueblos tournament at UC Santa Barbara.

While his teammates took the floor in Santa Barbara, Matt McKinney, who signed with UCLA and was the 2001 CIF player of the year, was in Atlanta watching the NCAA men's basketball Final Four.

In McKinney's absence, Aaron Richman, Jeff Urtonis and Nate Alker stepped up to lead the Pirates past Mission Hills Alemany, Los Angeles University and Oxnard. Urtonis' play earned him all-tournament honors.

"To get fifth at Dos Pueblos with that group is a big finish," Coach Chip Fenenga said.

"The younger kids who came in were real competitive, and with the seniors pushing them, we just really did well."

Santa Ynez is no stranger to success. The Pirates have won Southern Section titles in six of the last seven years, including the last three in a row.

Their next big test will be April 26-27 at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.

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