By Sue Pascoe
Although currently contending with a series of mid-season injuries, the Palisades High boys volleyball team should contend once again for the L.A. City Section championship.
Last year, with only one senior on the team, the Dolphins beat El Camino Real (25-20, 28-30, 29-27, 25-19) in the title game and were 8th-seeded in the CIF Southern California playoffs, where they lost to Corona del Mar.
Coach Carlos Gray was named City Section Division I Coach of the Year and junior libero Jeff Stuart was named Co-Player of the Year. In addition, sophomore setter/opposite hitter Marcus Partain and sophomore outside hitter Akhil Tangutur made first team All-City, while setter/opposite hitter Miles Partain and junior outside hitter Scott Stuart made second team.
With all these top players returning, PaliHi’s goal is to not only defend its city title but advance beyond the first round in the State playoffs.
The team has started out strong, with a 12-1 overall record. That only loss was against Alemany on March 17 in the Dos Pueblos Invitational Tournament, but the Dolphins beat Valley powerhouse Chatsworth without Partain and Stuart.
The News caught up with Gray after Pali’s 3-0 win against Western League rival Westchester on March 22, in which only eight of his players suited up.
“I have four players with injuries,” said Gray, noting that Partain (6’2”) and Stuart (6’2”), junior Mason Mallory (6’2” opposite hitter) and sophomore Miles Partain (6’3”) were not 100 percent. Stuart and Mallory were dealing with thumb issues and Miles had a shoulder problem.
There were no games or tournaments scheduled over last week’s spring break.
“We’re just trying to get healthy,” Gray said. “Sometimes it’s not the X’s and O’s, it’s the Jimmys and the Joes. If you don’t have the Jimmys and the Joes, you can’t do anything.”
Gray began coaching the team five years ago after years of coaching at Malibu High, where he is a special education teacher. He played high school volleyball at St. Monica’s and college ball at Santa Monica College.
Gray said that he loves coaching this year’s team because they have a high volleyball I.Q., which means they understand the
League play resumed with an away match at LACES last Tuesday, and the Dolphins hosted Venice on Monday, April 9..