Time to win or go home

Warrior boys’ volleyball squad feels pressure



ALOHA—Westlake High boys’ volleyball outside hitter Devon Johnson, a University of Hawaii commit, blocks the ball at practice. Photos by RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers

ALOHA—Westlake High boys’ volleyball outside hitter Devon Johnson, a University of Hawaii commit, blocks the ball at practice. Photos by RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers

Westlake High’s boys’ volleyball team felt confident heading into its second showdown against Newbury Park on April 5.

The Warriors, after all, surged to a four-set victory against their Marmonte League rivals on March 21 without starting 6-foot-8 senior middle blocker Danny Farrell. Westlake felt good going on the road to face Newbury Park with Farrell and his 7-foot wingspan back patrolling the net.

Blake Crisp

Blake Crisp

But the Warriors were a tad too confident in the second showdown. Newbury Park defeated Westlake in a three-set sweep.

“We can’t go into games cocky,” Farrell said.

Lesson learned.

Westlake, which started the season 12-7 overall, 3-2 in the Marmonte League, is preparing for a rematch against Calabasas at 6 p.m. Friday on the road. The Warriors dropped a five-set thriller against the Coyotes in the league opener on March 14.

“We have to beat them if we want a chance at being the team we want to be,” said senior setter Blake Crisp. “That’s going to be a big one.”

Danny Farrell

Danny Farrell

Westlake battled Oaks Christian on Wednesday. A score was unavailable at press time.

Despite the early Marmonte setbacks, the season’s gone relatively smoothly for first-year head coach Eric Taylor, who replaced longtime Warrior head coach Doug Magorien.

Taylor, a Camarillo High grad, has coached volleyball for 18 years. He assisted under Magorien from 2006 to 2010. Taylor, who has known some of the players since they were in elementary school, said it helped to have Magorien’s support during the interviewing process.

“With his reputation, when he gave my name, it kind of held weight,” Taylor said.

He inherited a team with four Division I caliber athletes: Trever Nachimzon, a Cal State Northridge signee; Devon Johnson, an outside hitter bound for Hawaii; Crisp, who committed to UC San Diego; and Farrell, who recently reopened up his recruitment after originally committing to USC.

Crisp, one of the top setters in the state, is a natural leader.

“I’ve given him so much free rein on how to make the team function better,” the coach said of Crisp.

Crisp does it all for Westlake. He entered the week with 415 assists,

44 digs, 30 kills, 10 blocks and a team-high 10 service aces. He’s had 50-plus assists in four matches this season.

Nachimzon, a libero, has taken on more responsibilities as a firstyear starter. The senior spent the first half of last season on the junior varsity squad before being called up to varsity, where he saw action as a serving specialist.

“I was a late bloomer when it comes to volleyball,” Nachimzon said. “I didn’t feel strong as a player. Now I feel like I’m a strong player.”

Nachimzon’s been solid for Westlake in the back row. He entered the week with 161 digs, 196 serves received and only 13 receiving errors.

Johnson makes it rain at outside hitter. The hard-hitting senior entered the week with 144 kills, 73 digs, 24 assists, 12 blocks and 10 aces. Johnson teams up with Crisp during the beach volleyball season. The dynamic duo went undefeated en route to a Marmonte title.

Farrell, who dealt with nagging injuries as a junior, missed three weeks of action after spraining his ankle at the Best of the West Tournament in Poway. He’s still adjusting to wearing ankle braces, but he’s just glad to be back on the court. Farrell said he was antsy watching his teammates from the bench.

“Every time the coach turned his head, I immediately sat up straighter because I thought he was going to put me in . . . then I’d realize I was wearing jeans,” he said. “Getting back onto the court was a breath of fresh air.”

Gianluca Lucchina, a senior who lines up at opposite hitter, and Aaron Li, a junior outside hitter, also start for Westlake.

Kyle Yoshimoto, a senior, sees action at outside hitter. Ian Guss and Michael Shahidi, both juniors, contribute off the bench.

Zach Thiesen, a sophomore, has stepped up at middle blocker.

“He’s a great kid,” Farrell said of Thiesen. “He works really hard.”

The Warriors are eager to get back onto the winning track in time for CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

“We want to go out swinging, if we go out at all,” Crisp said. “I definitely want to keep going as far as we can with this team.”

The Warriors in a nutshell

Head coach

• Eric Taylor (first season)

Players to watch

• Blake Crisp, senior, S

• Devon Johnson, senior, OH

• Aaron Li, junior, OH

• Danny Farrell, senior, MB

• Zach Thiesen, soph., MB

• Trever Nachimzon, senior, L

• Gianluca Lucchina, senior, OPP

Record

• 12-7 overall, 3-2 in the Marmonte League at press time

Next match

• Westlake at Calabasas, 6 p.m. Friday