Larchmont Charter volleyball is a dynasty in the making

| April 25, 2024 | 0 Comments

UCLA Bruins basketball, The San Francisco 49ers and the New York Yankees.

Sports dynasties are rare and wonderful for fans: the multiple titles year after year, superstar players, and every home game a sellout. But what exactly are the necessary ingredients for a sports dynasty?

GIRLS’ TEAM (back row, left to right): Abigail Makray, Mayli Hernandez, Winnie Baird, Zuri Jacobs, Sofia Foster, Ellie Castillo. Front row, left to right: Coach Keith Harris, Stella Captain, Lily Kamenetzky, Emerson Basco, Meggan Martinez, Alice Killoran and Mia Geller.

The coach

Larchmont Charter Middle School volleyball coach Keith Harris understands the value of exposing his players to dynasty.

“When I was in college, my coach, Dan Hays, took me to see Gonzaga [University Bulldogs] practice. On that team were Adam Morrison and Ronny Turiaf. I remember that being a turning point in the way I practiced and approached basketball.”

In March, Harris took members of the Larchmont Charter boys’ volleyball team to Loyola High School to watch them play Corona del Mar. At present, Loyola’s volleyball team is ranked No. 1 in the country, and Corona del Mar is No. 5.

“I wanted my guys to see how nationally ranked teams warmed up, played together, communicated…and how hard they competed. I know my players want to make it to that level, and they needed to see that it’s possible.”

Harris played college basketball and then played professionally for a brief time in Germany. When he started as a physical education coach at Larchmont Charter, he was also hired to coach basketball.

Volleyball is a new sport for him, but one he has grown to love as much as basketball. He is currently taking a volleyball class at Pierce College, and he attends a coaches’ clinic at Bishop Mora Salesian High School on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

“It’s helped make me a better coach.”

The players

Harris coaches the Larchmont Charter girls’ team in the fall and the boys in the spring. Volleyball is one of the few sports where the girls’ and boys’ seasons do not run concurrently. This unique setup enables him to coach both teams.

Volleyball is a relatively new sport for boys at Larchmont. Presently, they are in their third season.

“Larchmont has always been known for boys’ basketball,” said Harris. “Now the girls see something they can be recognized for.”

Harris had about 80 girls try out for the grades 5-6 and 7-8 volleyball teams, and he had to decide on just 24 players. The amount of talent made it impossible to just pick two squads of 10, so he added two players to each group.

On Nov. 16, 2023, the Larchmont girls 7-8 grade team won its league playoff finals, and the team finished the season undefeated.

In March 37 boys tried out for the grades 7-8 teams. Last season’s boys’ team had ended runner-up in the league, which motivated more to try out this spring. Harris will have an A squad and a B squad.

The extra

BOYS’ TEAM (left to right): Noah Riddell, Ian Yoo, Luke Flexner, Sebastian Purg, Joshua Jung, Coach Keith Harris, Aiden Bae, Everett Mohr and Paul Vaillancourt.

Harris knows that putting in the extra work is also a must, and that’s what his players do. Alice Killoran did not make the girls’ team two years ago, so she worked hard over the summer and, in November, played on that championship squad. She was also that games’ captain.

Last season’s team MVP, Noah Riddell, plays off-season for The Beach Club in Santa Monica. He and fellow Larchmont teammates Ian Yoo, Luke Flexner, Joshua Jung and Everett Mohr frequent volleyball sessions at open gyms on the weekends year-round in Burbank, DTLA, and Santa Monica.

“I researched the open gyms and passed the info along to the kids,” Harris said.

“I let them decide if they want to attend. I’m extremely proud of the kids that are there every weekend. They play against adults, and, of course, the best teacher that you can ever have is experience.”

That, and a great coach.

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