Boys volleyball: Time on Sage Hill's side

March 11, 2002

Barry Faulkner

NEWPORT COAST - Sage Hill High boys volleyball coach Merja

Connolly-Freund likes what she has seen so far of the school's inaugural

varsity squad. It's what she doesn't see -- the competition in the

Academy League -- that makes her hesitant to forecast a CIF Southern

Section playoff appearance for her youthful but promising group.

"The only thing I have to base it on is my experience with the girls


team," Connolly-Freund said. "We had to compete against St. Margaret's,

Capistrano Valley Christian and Brethren Christian, who mostly had

seniors. It was hard to compete against that strength and maturity. A

great goal would be for us to finish in the top four. I don't know if we

can crack the top three. I'm just hoping we improve and build on the good

start our program has gotten off to."

The Lightning started as a junior varsity unit, which played a

free-lance schedule last year.

This season, they already have a varsity victory, a sweep of Tarbut

V'Torah in the Feb. 26 opener.

"I'm very happy about the program, because we have 24 guys, which

allows us to have a varsity and a JV," Connolly-Freund said.

With seven sophomores, three freshmen and two juniors,

Connolly-Freund, a former women's head coach at UC Irvine and Cornell,

also likes the program's future.

"Our guys have a natural chemistry and practice is a lot of fun," she

said. "The players are real competitive with one another."

Helping the Lightning compete will be Kevin Joyce, a 6-foot-3

sophomore who is a veteran of the Balboa Bay Volleyball Club program.

"He'll pass the middle in all six rotations and he's also our go-to

hitter," Connolly-Freund said. "He's our team captain and he has a lot of

responsibility for a sophomore. But I believe he can handle it."

Sophomore setter Julian Smith-Newman will be entrusted with triggering

the offense.

"Last year was his first playing volleyball and he's a lot more

comfortable this year," Connolly-Freund said. "He's more mature

physically and mentally. Last year, we ran a 6-2 (a two-setter scheme),

but this year we're running a 5-1 (with him as the lone setter)."

Macsun Frederick, a 6-1 sophomore and another returner, is another

outside hitter with potential.

"He's our second-best passer and he has been swinging really well from

the outside," Connolly-Freund said.

Erik Williams, a 6-0 junior, and Blake Brewer, a 6-0 freshman, are

newcomers from the basketball team.

Williams (with a measured vertical leap of 38 1/2 inches) is a very

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