By Sue Pascoe
Located just a mile from the Pacific Ocean and Will Rogers State Beach, Palisades High School has become a logical powerhouse in prep beach volleyball.
Under head coach Dane Selznick, a PaliHi alum and former beach volleyball champion, the Pali girls team is playing its seventh season, and the boys will start their sixth season in August.
Last year, the girls lost to Mira Costa in the state championship match, and most of the top players have returned, except Alyssa Slagerman, who is a freshman playing beach volleyball at UCLA.
“This season I have around 50 girls in the program,”Selznick said.“I don’t turn anyone away. I want them to experience a lifestyle sport they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.”
Selznick said the core of his team includes Erin Slagerman, Lilli Sims, Neeka Djabbari, Keely McMahon and Alex Laita, with Annie Eckert and Danica Yeh filling in. His JV team includes Ashton Evans, Lavender Billingsly, Sydney Conway, Bella Hooper, Carly Duffy, Taylor Smith, Georgia Pappas, Elizabeth Crawford, Elena Kilkowski, Mia Oliver and Chloe Uhls.
The girls practice Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Will Rogers State Beach at Entrada Drive.
“I have about eight girls who are new to the beach game,” Selznick said. “It’s amazing how far they’ve come since we started training. Especially in the windy conditions after school.” Palisades High School has more volleyball players who have won Olympic gold medals or world championships than any other high school in the nation.
Gold medalists have included Kent Steffes who, teamed with Karch Kiraly, won the first Olympic beach volleyball gold medal in Atlanta in 1996. Chris Marlowe (1984) and Ricci Luyties (1988) won gold medals playing for the U.S. team.
Other top players from PaliHi have been Randy Stoklos, who won one U.S. beach championship and five world championships (with Palisadian Sinjin Smith); Gary Hooper, who won 11 major tourneys; Bob Clem, nine tourneys; Fred Sturm, seven; and Jay Hanseth five.
Other Dolphins going onto distinguished volleyball careers after high school include coaches Don Shaw and Charlie Stennett, and Wally Goodrich, Roger Clark, Gerry Escallier and Mike Anapol.
And then there’s Selznick, also an alum, who won 15 pro tour events and in 1980 was the beach world champion.
There are 50 schools in the Interscholastic Beach Volleyball League and Palisades is in the Bay Division, which includes Mira Costa, Santa Monica, Redondo Union, Palos Verdes and South Torrance.
League matches are scheduled at Dockweiler State Beach on April 21 and April 28, starting at 9 a.m. Playoffs start on May 3. Visit ibvl.org for more information.