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Nihipali's Mustangs Were Able to Run Roughshod


During fourth period each day at Manhattan Beach Mira Costa High, Pat Nihipali was on-call for tech support.

For the last three years, since he transferred from Anaheim Esperanza High, Nihipali has been responsible for keeping the school's computer network up and running.

"They always managed to find me," he said. "I got pulled from class a lot."

The same skills the senior middle blocker used to troubleshoot problems on a computer helped him on the volleyball court.

"Most everything in volleyball is about watching what's going on and reacting to it," Nihipali said. "In volleyball, you just watch the setter's hands and you can tell where the ball is going to go. It's the same with computers. They're set up to tell you a certain code, so you know what's going on."

Nihipali, The Times' boys' volleyball player of the year, averaged 19 kills and six blocks to help the Mustangs (28-1) win their second consecutive Southern Section Division II championship. Mira Costa defeated Bellflower St. John Bosco in the title match, 18-16, 15-6, 15-5, and Nihipali was selected the Division II player of the year for a second consecutive season.

The Mustangs were down, 13-7, in Game 1 of the final when Nihipali provided a block that seemingly changed the momentum. They went on an 11-3 run and won, 18-16.

"He was definitely a factor in their win," St. John Bosco Coach Randy Totorp said. "He blocked some balls and emotionally got them going [in the first game].

"He proved to his team [the importance of not giving up] and certainly played a big part in how they were able to pull it out."

Momentum-shifting plays aren't all that Nihipali provides. His positive energy rubs off on his teammates, who look to him for encouragement.

"He pushes everyone on the team to play better, even people on the bench," said Tim Schneider, an opposite hitter. "They saw how good Pat was and saw how much fun you could have playing volleyball. He motivated a lot of people."

Nihipali, 6 feet 8, will play next season for UCLA. His brother Paul and sister Amy also played volleyball for the Bruins, but Pat said that they didn't put any pressure on him.

"They just told me, 'Go wherever you want' ... but they ruled out Stanford or USC," Nihipali said with a laugh.

His departure creates a void at Mira Costa, on the volleyball court and in class with technical support.



*--* THE TIMES' ALL-STAR BOYS' VOLLEYBALL TEAM PLAYER OF THE YEAR Pat Nihipali, Mira Costa Sr 6-8 Middle blocker FIRST TEAM Bart Kowalski, Royal Sr 6-0 Setter Three-year starter led Highlanders to Southern Section Division II semifinals and was an All-Southern Section selection for second consecutive season Paul Spittle, St. John Bosco Sr 6-1 Outside hitter Helped take Braves to the Southern Section Division II championship match with 32 kills in semifinal victory over Thousand Oaks Derek Otte, Loyola Sr 6-4 Opposite hitter Hard-hitter led Cubs to Mission League title and was All-Southern Section selection for second consecutive season. Signed with USC John Parfitt, Anaheim Canyon Jr 6-7 Outside hitter Had 74 kills in section semifinal against Santa Margarita and followed it with 52 kills in Division III championship victory against San Marcos Chris Ahlfeldt, Mira Costa Sr 6-7 Middle blocker Stanford-bound middle blocker was part of one-two punch at the net for Mustangs, who went 28-1 and won second consecutive section Division II title Matt McKinney, Santa Ynez Sr 6-8 Middle blocker Headed to UCLA on a basketball scholarship, he led Pirates to their fourth consecutive Southern Section title Coach of the Year: Isaac Owens, Esperanza In only his second season, Owens guided Aztecs to Southern Section Division I championship with a junior-dominated team that was 3-13 last season SECOND TEAM Brandon Mel, Northwood Sr 6-4 Outside hitter Kevin Cape, St. John Bosco Sr 6-6 Middle blocker Paul George, Chatsworth Sr 6-5 Opposite hitter Steve Klosterman, Marina Jr 6-6 Opposite hitter Chip Neff, Thousand Oaks Sr 6-4 Setter Jeff Urton, Santa Ynez Sr 6-4 Outside hitter




A look at the final top 10 boys' volleyball teams in the Southland:

1. Mira Costa (28-1, SS-Div. II)

Mustangs win second consecutive Southern Section championship. (Previous ranking: No. 1)

2. Santa Ynez (27-0, SS-Div. IV)

Pirates continue to dominate other small-school teams, winning sixth title in seven seasons. (3)

3. St. John Bosco (39-2, SS-Div. II)

Surprising Braves are toppled in the end by mighty Mira Costa. (5)

4. Royal (23-7, SS-Div. II)

Setter Bart Kowalski took Highlanders to Marmonte League title and playoff semifinals. (8)

5. Thousand Oaks (19-5, SS-Div. II)

Lancers turn '02 into season to remember with surprising playoff run to the semifinals. (NR)

6. Loyola (17-2, SS-Div. II)

Stellar season stalled by quarterfinal loss to Thousand Oaks in section playoffs. (2)

7. Northwood (23-2, SS-Div. IV)

Not bad for a school in its second year of varsity competition. (4)

8. Chatsworth (14-0, City Section)

By (Paul) George, Chancellors are City champions for the first time since 1989. (NR)

9. Esperanza (16-5, SS-Div. I)

Aztecs go from nightmare (3-13 last season) to dream come true (Division I title). (10)

10. Anaheim Canyon (14-6, SS-Div. III)

Junior John Parfitt had 162 kills in Comanches' final three playoff matches. (NR)

Mike Bresnahan

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