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Brande: Lots of talent in college

Volleyball

February 09, 2012|By Charlie Brande

As the high school basketball season winds down and moves to the CIF playoffs, the boys' volleyball season is about to start.

The college season is in its second month and going strong. Many of our former local players are making an impact at the collegiate level.

In the east at Penn State, Connor Curry, out of Newport Harbor, has started every match as the libero. The Nittany Lions recently beat Stanford to establish themselves as one of the top teams. Curry, a redshirt freshman, has burst unto the scene as a top libero.

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In the Midwest at Loyola-Chicago, Newport's Cody Caldwell is starting as an outside hitter as a freshman. With a very distinct southern California influence, Loyola has emerged as a new Midwest power.

Also playing in the Midwest at The Ohio State is Corona del Mar's Danny Baker and Newport's Kyle Lawrence. Baker has started many matches as the libero for the defending NCAA champion while Lawrence is in a battle for the starting setting position.

On the west coast, Stanford recently defeated BYU at BYU twice while BYU was ranked No. 1 in the nation. That is quite a feat. The Cardinal were led by Corona del Mar's Gus Ellis, who has emerged as a blocking force for Stanford. Another former Sea King middle blocker who is waiting in the wings as a freshman is Spencer Haly.

At UCSB, there are three of Coach Steve Conti's former Sea Kings.

Middle blocker Dylan Davis is leading the team in blocks, while Blaine Nielsen is starting on the outside and Weston Nielsen is a reserve outside hitter. Another Gaucho middle blocker is Costa Mesa's Ryan Thompson, who at 6-foot-9 spent part of his freshman year at Penn State before starting at Orange Coast College on his way to Santa Barbara.

A freshman at Pepperdine is CdM's Evan Dean. At USC, Corona's Jeff Carlson has made a major impact as a multi-talented player and Joey Booth, also from CdM, has seen time as a back-row/serving specialist for the Trojans. One of the USC liberos is Newport Harbor's J.B. Green.

UCLA is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation. The Bruins' setter is Kyle Caldwell (Newport Harbor), who at 6-9 has the ability to set, hit and block with the very best. Middle hitter Wes Dunlap, also from Newport, is the second leading hitter in the nation.

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