Raul Papaleo knows all about the storied tradition of the Laguna Beach High girls' volleyball program. The players, the league titles, the CIF Southern Section championships.
This year, he's adding his name to that tradition.
Papaleo is about to begin his initial year as head coach of the girls' program when on Sept. 3, the Breakers open their 2013 campaign on the road at JSerra. He took over the program reins last March, after Lance Stewart resigned as head coach in December.
"I'm very excited to be working with a great group of girls and a program with a great tradition," Papaleo said.
Laguna last year was the No. 4 seed in the CIF Southern Section Division 1A playoffs. The Breakers won their first two postseason matches before bowing out of title contention following a quarterfinal round loss to Capistrano Valley.
Laguna has reached the playoff quarterfinal round 37 times in the 41-year history of the girls' volleyball playoffs.
Eight players from last year's undefeated Orange Coast League championship team return in 2013, giving Papaleo talent to work with. The group includes returning league MVP and All-CIF player, junior outside hitter Alyse Ford, and two second team all-league selections, junior libero Francie Holte and junior outside hitter/opposite Sabrina Stillwell.
Ford, the lone returnee who will be a senior, finished the 2012 season with 488 kills.
Other returnees include senior outside hitter/defensive specialist Samantha Kruger, junior setter Briana Boyd, junior opposite/middle blocker Danielle Quiarte, sophomore opposite Cameron Dorn, and sophomore outside hitter/setter Aspen Rocha.
Papaleo called it a "young team" that will be "very competitive."
A native of Puerto Rico, Papaleo has more than 20 years of volleyball experience. He played collegiate men's volleyball at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he was part of an NCAA Final Four team and achieved All-American status as an outside hitter. He first coached at the prep level in 1994 as a varsity head coach at Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne, and later coached at three different high schools in Puerto Rico. He also coached a men's collegiate team in Puerto Rico (2000-01).
Papaleo competed on the Puerto Rico National Team and was a member of the first Puerto Rican beach volleyball team to compete at the Olympic Games. He is a 2003 Pan American Games bronze medalist and a two-time North Central American and Caribbean Confederation (NORCECA) gold medalist (2003, 2008). He played several years on the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals Tour.
After opening against JSerra Sept. 3, Laguna concludes the first week of its 2013 season with a Sept. 5 home opener against Santa Margarita. The Breakers will play in back-to-back tournaments in mid-September which includes a trip to Las Vegas for the Durango Fall Classic.
Breakers Girls' Volleyball
Head Coach: Raul Papaleo (first year)
Coaching staff: Doug Mauro; Carson Tanner; Alissa Blevins.
2012 records: 18-7 overall; 10-0 league (champion)
2012 CIF results: Reached quarterfinal round of Division 1A playoffs.
Returning players: Samantha Kruger (OH/DS, Sr.); Alyse Ford (OH, Jr.); Francie Holte (libero, Jr.); Sabrina Stillwell (OH/OPP, Jr.); Briana Boyd (S, Jr.); Danielle Quiarte (OPP/MB, Jr.); Cameron Dorn (OPP, Soph.); Aspen Rocha (OH/S, Soph.).