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High Schools | BOYS' VOLLEYBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Beckwith Set the Bar High

June 17, 2003|Paul McLeod | Times Staff Writer

The most valuable player of the Super Bowl gets invited to a theme park.

The Times' 2003 boys' volleyball player of the year goes surfing.

There's at least one similarity.

The Super Bowl MVP is usually a quarterback who leads his team to victory.

Brian Beckwith, a 6-foot-6 senior setter at Los Angeles Loyola and The Times' player of the year, has a similar role. In the Southern Section Division I final, he drove the Cubs to a sweep of San Clemente.

"The kids look to him to lead," Coach Michael Boehle said.

So where did we catch up with Beckwith a little more than 36 hours after he led Loyola to its first section title in eight years? Doing what he likes best, other than playing volleyball -- catching a few waves at Zuma Beach. It was a welcome relief, he said, from the pressure that began to build even before the season began.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday June 20, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
High school volleyball -- Los Angeles Loyola senior setter Brian Beckwith is 6 feet 6. His height was reported incorrectly as 6-7 in a Sports listing of the area's top volleyball players Tuesday.

Indeed, Beckwith & Co. were expected to win it all this season. Simply put, Loyola, which finished 20-0 in best-of-five matches, was loaded with talent. Anything short of a section title, Boehle said, would have been downright embarrassing.

In recent years, Loyola has come out blazing, only to be tripped up in the playoffs.

That was the challenge faced by Beckwith, who has signed with Hawaii, each time he stepped on a court. Not even three previous seasons of playing on United States youth national teams could prepare him for such pressure.

"He had experienced the downfalls of Loyola volleyball in the past," Boehle said. "He promised he wouldn't let it happen in his senior year."

Beckwith said he and his teammates were constantly aware of the lofty expectations surrounding them, but they remained confident.

"We were blessed with all the talent and the question was," he said, "Was all the talent finally going to win one? It was a huge hump to get over and it was definitely something I thought about."

Teammate Jake Schkud said Beckwith never wavered.

"He's a true natural leader," Schkud said. "He never loses his cool and he's a great guy to play with on the court."

Loyola occupied the top spot in the weekly rankings for all but the second-to-last week of the regular season, when the wheels looked as if they were about to come off the Cubs' train.

The team had some injuries and was knocked out of the Redondo tournament in a best-of-three semifinal loss to Westlake Village Westlake, a team the Cubs later defeated in a playoff semifinal.

Also, the lack of consistently tough competition in the Mission League didn't help prepare the Cubs for the playoffs, Beckwith said.

"We lost track of what we had set out to do," he said.

So, they cranked up the music during practice, didn't step on cracks in the sidewalks and ate special food for luck. If you believe that had anything to do with their success, well.... But it did help redirect attention to the task at hand. Top-seeded Loyola didn't lose a game in four playoff victories.

Boehle gives much of the credit to Beckwith.

"His ability to take control of a match and lead is astounding," Boehle said. "He makes very, very good decisions."

Like many winning quarterbacks, Beckwith is humble and prefers to spread the praise.

"He's not cocky by any means," Boehle said. "He's confident."

Said Beckwith: "With the quality players I had on my team, I knew they would be good to go."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

THE TIMES' ALL-STAR BOYS' VOLLEYBALL TEAM

*--* FIRST TEAM Brian Beckwith, Loyola 6-7 Sr Setter Hawaii-bound "quarterback" and player of the year made good on promise to lead talent-laden team to section title Steve Klosterman, Marina 6-7 Sr OPP UCLA-bound opposite hitter was most dominant individual in Sunset League with half-dozen games of 50 kills or more Kenny Markwardt, Marina 6-3 Sr OH Shunned traditional club programs and honed outside-hitting skills on beach to become all-around player in the Sunset League, the toughest in the state William Pate, Chatsworth 6-2 Sr OH City Section co-player of year was rock-steady in leading Chancellors to second consecutive section title Jake Schkud, Loyola 6-5 Sr MB Big man in middle was also a kill leader for talented Cub team Brian Thornton, San Clemente 6-4 Sr Setter Hard-working MVP of Orange County Championships guided Tritons to Division I final Coach of the Year: Mark Knudsen, Valencia Led Vikings to first school title (Division II) and 21-1 record SECOND TEAM Jayson Jablonsky, Esperanza 6-5 Sr OH Alex McEwan, Valencia 6-2 Sr OH Mazi Sarahang, Camarillo 5-8 Sr Setter Tanner Sutherland, Corona Santiago 6-7 Sr MB Brian Villaroman, St. John Bosco 5-9 Sr OH/OPP Josh Zagha, Taft 6-1 Sr MB

*--*

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