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La Jolla schools play first season of girls beach volleyball as a CIF sport

Senior Jenna Drobeck is part of La Jolla High School's first CIF girls beach volleyball team.
(Courtesy of Kelly Drobeck)

For the first time, girls beach volleyball is being recognized as a California Interscholastic Federation sport this spring after the CIF Federated Council gave unanimous approval last year. But getting to this point was nine years in the making, and La Jolla High School volleyball coach Kelly Drobeck was at the ground level of the effort.

In 2013, she and another beach volleyball coach decided to put together a high school beach volleyball club league “because we saw the growth and that it was approved at the NCAA level,” Drobek said. The league started with eight schools and quickly grew to 37.

“That was awesome, but it was still a club sport,” Drobek said. “We realized it would be better if it was recognized as a CIF sport. That was my goal in starting the whole thing to begin with. It would give the girls more opportunities to play for their schools … and would legitimize the sport.”

She circulated petitions to schools across the state and fielded concerns that a beach volleyball season would infringe on indoor volleyball.

Now, 37 schools around San Diego County will be participating in the season that starts this week, and CIF championships will be held in May. “We’re super excited it finally went through,” Drobeck said.

La Jolla High’s team is young, Drobeck said. “We have five seniors, but only two play full time. The others play consistently ... [and] are very good but don’t have as much beach experience. There will be a lot of growth this year.”

One of the seniors is Drobek’s daughter Jenna Drobeck, a volleyball and water polo player who recently received a CIF San Diego Section/Mission Fed Credit Union Student Athlete of the Year award.

La Jolla Country Day School has had a girls beach volleyball club team since 2016. That first year, “we had 24 girls try out, which is a lot considering beach volleyball is played two on two,” said coach Lynne Galli. “There was huge interest in competing in beach volleyball. We’ve continued to grow over the years and we’re looking forward to the season.”

Galli said this year’s team is “a great group” that “wants to grow as players.”

Having the sport recognized by CIF “shows these girls that have had beach volleyball as a hobby for so long that their hard work will pay off,” Galli said. “It provides an opportunity for the girls that want to play in college.”

The Bishop’s School will not have beach volleyball this season, but “we are hoping to next season,” athletic director Paula Conway told the La Jolla Light.

More spring sports

Other spring sports with seasons underway include boys indoor volleyball and boys and girls swimming.

Boys volleyball

At La Jolla Country Day School, this is only the second boys volleyball season in recent years following a period in which there weren’t enough players to form a team.

After the program was revived in 2019, the 2020 season was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the team “never got a match in,” coach Steve Jones said.

In 2021, however, the Torreys made it to the CIF San Diego Section semifinals.

“It’s a great bunch of guys; they kept the excitement alive in the offseason,” Jones said. “We’re starting to gel. Our biggest asset will be our ball control and exuberance on the court.”

At The Bishop’s School, the Knights’ theme for the 2022 season is “unfinished business,” according to coach Kevin Pratte.

“The 2021 squad fell a little short of their goals of winning a league title and playing in the CIF Division II title match,” he said. “With senior captains Logan Howard, Sam Gal, Ryland Birchmeier and Jameson Vaccaro, the team has a solid leadership committee.

“The goal is to use volleyball as a vehicle to teach life skills to every student-athlete involved in the boys volleyball program.”

La Jolla High School coaches could not be reached for comment.

Boys and girls swimming

The Bishop’s School’s boys and girls swim teams practice together but compete separately.

“The boys team has very strong senior leadership with two returning CIF champions [and] seniors Lucius Brown and Greyson Davies,” coach Jim Jordan said. “The boys team won the 2021 CIF Division II swimming [title] last April. We won in 2019 as well, so two titles in a row, separated by the COVID year in which there was no CIF championship.”

Jordan said the girls team “has good depth with strong seniors and also fast underclass swimmers. The girls water polo team [which just claimed its fourth consecutive CIF Open Division title] is definitely a big part of the girls swim team. Most girls who were on the championship team also swim, and they continue to improve as competitive swimmers. We have a mix of swimmers who also play water polo and swimmers who are primarily competitive swimmers, and that interaction is great. They all help each other to get better. We ... are excited to see how much faster we can get this season.”

Coaches from La Jolla Country Day and La Jolla High schools could not be reached for comment. ◆