Boys’ Volleyball Prepares to Serve Up Strength in the Upcoming Season

Hannah Yick, Tideline Staff Writer

During the week of February 5, Pali’s main gym squeaked under the pressure. Sneakers tore across the sleek wood floors as boys dove and lunged— Volleyball tryouts for the upcoming spring we’re coming to a close.

As final cuts were made and the team roster was finalized, JV coach, varsity assistant coach, and Pali history teacher Dustyn Woropay expressed his excitement for the new year.

“There are some good teams in the league—Chatsworth, El Camino, and Taft come to mind—but we’re returning as many players as they are, and we won the city championship without the league MVP Jeff Stuart last year, so I feel pretty good about our chances in city this year,” Woropay said. “We’re going to have to play well in playoffs to get to that point, but I think that that’s a realistic goal that we should have and that we should be setting our sights on. The guys have talked a lot about wanting to win a couple of state games, but that depends a lot on our seeding for the Southern California regionals.”

For the varsity team, who lost in the first round of the CIF SoCal Regional Championships last year to Corona Del Mar High School, having the opportunity to win these state matches would be a welcome challenge. To get to that point, however, the team will have to do extremely well in their CIF playoff games and tournament matches. In regionals, lower-seeded teams play higher-seeded teams in the first rounds, so being a higher-seeded team is an advantage in that they won’t play the top teams and get eliminated early. Last year, out of the eight teams in the Division I regionals, Pali was seeded 8th and was forced to play — and subsequently lose to — the 1st seeded team.

Junior Justin Howard, the team’s starting middle blocker, is also anticipating the season with a focus on their state matches.

“We’re in harder tournaments with much better competition this year, and if we perform well there, there’s a chance that we’re not going to get the 8th seed in state and get a higher seed, which is better so we don’t have to play the best teams in state so early on. That’s kind of the goal right now,” Howard said. “Personally, I’m aiming to be more of a dynamic blocking presence in the middle, and hopefully that’ll be a good asset for the team as we prepare for state.”

As this season will be their last, seniors and twin brothers Jeff and Scott Stuart are both looking forward to their fourth and final year on varsity. Much like their teammates, the boys are focused on securing a chance at some state victories. They have two CIF City Championship wins under their belts already and are definitely aiming to claim one more before they graduate.

“It’s our last year and we’ve been here for a while, so we’re kind of just hoping to get it all finished and move on. Winning another city final, without a doubt, and trying to win state would be fine with us,” Jeff commented.

(from left to right) Justin Howard, Nicholas Conte, Stone Werner
Stone Werner, JV Captain
Nicholas Conte, Varsity Libero
Justin Howard, Varsity Middle Blocker