The 20 Best Volleyball Players Ever To Compete In A CIF State Final

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Despite the fact that the sport was invented in Massachusetts, volleyball has often been thought of as a California pastime. Many of the best athletes to ever play the sport have grown up in or attended college in the Golden State.

In the long, storied history of the California Interscholastic Federation, a lucky selection of the state’s top volleyball players have made it to the state finals. Here’s a list of the best players ever to compete in the CIF state championship.

But first, another CIF fun fact: In 1980, Fremont of Sunnyvale (41-4) won the third Division 1 state title under head coach John Dunning. He was winning NCAA titles just five years later at University of the Pacific and recently retired from a legendary coaching career at Stanford.

1. Kerri Walsh Jennings (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose)

Kerri Walsh Jennings won three Olympic beach volleyball gold medals with Misty May-Treanor, and bronze with April Ross. The 1999 AVCA Co-Player of the Year and a four-time first-team All-American, Walsh Jennings is widely accepted as the best women’s beach volleyball player of all time and has won more than $2 million in prize money.

But before all that, she was a star player for Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, California.

Mitty won the D1 crown in 1995, beating St. Mary’s of Stockton in the final and finishing 38-3 with a No. 1 ranking in the state. Walsh Jennings also won a D4 state title at Mitty in 1993 and D3 state title in 1994.

Did you know?

Walsh Jennings was just about as good a basketball player as she was in volleyball during her high school years. She led Mitty to a CIF D3 state title in 1995, but in the 1996 season the Monarchs were moved up to Division 1 and lost in the state final to Mater Dei of Santa Ana. Let’s just say it was one of the worst officiated games many long-time prep writers have ever seen (Walsh Jennings fouled out).

2. Misty May-Treanor (Newport Harbor, Newport Beach)

With Misty May-Treanor quarterbacking the offense, Long Beach State went undefeated in 1998 and won the NCAA national championship. May-Treanor partnered with Holly McPeak to begin her professional beach volleyball career, but soon after picked up Kerri Walsh Jennings, starting the best women’s beach volleyball team of all time. 

As a high school senior at Newport Harbor High School in 1994, May-Treanor won a CIF D1 state title. It was May-Treanor’s second state title, as her team won the D3 championship in her sophomore year.

Did you know?

May-Treanor didn’t win a CIF state title in another sport like Walsh Jennings did, but she was pretty darn close. As a member of the Newport Harbor track team, May-Treanor competed in the high jump at the CIF state meet in 1995 and earned a second-place medal.

3. April Ross (Newport Harbor, Newport Beach)

Two-time Olympic beach volleyball medalist April Ross is perhaps the best women's beach volleyball player in the world right now. In college at USC, Ross led the Trojans to back-to-back NCAA titles in her junior and senior seasons (2002 and 2003). 

In her junior and senior years of high school, Ross' teams at Newport Harbor won the CIF Division 1 state title. The Sailors beat Lincoln of Stockton in both matches, a team coached at the time by Bret Almazan-Cezar, who later won 10 CIF state titles at Archbishop Mitty.

Did you know?

Lauren Fendrick, with whom Ross played the majority of the 2017 professional beach volleyball season, was first-team all-state in 1998 as a senior when Ross was a junior at Newport Harbor and was second team all-state.

4. Holly McPeak (Mira Costa, Manhattan Beach)

Olympic beach volleyball bronze medalist Holly McPeak was also an NCAA star at Cal and UCLA, even leading the Bruins to a national title in 1990. For that Olympic medal in 2004, McPeak teamed up with Elaine Youngs, an El Toro native who would be on a list of the top 20 players ever to come from California but didn't make it since she never played in a CIF state final.

McPeak’s high school alma mater Mira Costa has had a number of undefeated CIF state championship teams over the years, and she was the setter for one of them. That was in 1985 when the Mustangs capped their 24-0 season with a dominating 15-4, 15-4, 15-10 rout of Newport Harbor. 

Did you know?

McPeak and many of the others on this list from Mira Costa are part of a league win streak that started in 1985 and lasted until 2004. The estimated length of that league win streak is 230 matches.

5. Tara Cross-Battle (Southern California Christian, Anaheim)

A member of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014, Tara Cross-Battle has been described as one of the best volleyball players in the world. She was a four-time Olympian and won an NCAA title at Long Beach State in 1989. 

In the 1985 CIF Division 3 state championship match, with Cross-Battle leading the way, Southern California Christian defeated Calaveras of San Andreas 15-7, 15-8, 4-15, 15-8. Despite playing for a small school, Cross-Battle was named the Ms. Volleyball State Player of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports in 1985. Southern California Christian closed in 2000.

Did you know? 

Cross-Battle went to high school in California, but she was born in Houston and returned to Texas to coach club volleyball after her playing career was over.

6. Bev Oden (Irvine)

One of three Oden sisters who had illustrious NCAA and national team careers, Bev Oden was the AVCA Division I Player of the Year at Stanford in 1990 and played for the Olympic team in 1996. 

Although her sisters Kim and Elaina were each state players of the year and all-time greats, only Bev played on a team that made it to the state championship. Her Irvine team topped Newport Harbor in the 1987 D1 final and then repeated in 1988, going 22-0 and beating Davis in the championship match. 

Did you know?

Oden wore No. 7 in honor of Flo Hyman, a volleyball legend who was also from California (Inglewood Morningside) and led the USA to a bronze medal at 1982 World Championships and silver at 1984 Olympics. Hyman died in 1986 from a heart attack brought on by Marfan syndrome.

7. Cynthia Barboza (Wilson, Long Beach)

Three-time All-American Cynthia Barboza led Stanford to the national championship match in 2006, 2007, and 2008; however, the Cardinal finished runner-up each year. The two-time Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year (2004 and 2005) was also named Gatorade’s Athlete of the Year across all sports in 2005. 

In 2002, Barboza’s sophomore year in high school, Wilson played St. Francis of Mountain View in the Division 1 championship and lost in four sets. 

Did you know?

While Barboza was the Gatorade National Athlete of the Year for the 2004-05 school year, she was not considered the athlete of the year at Wilson High. Gatorade has never included swimming as one of its sports in its honors program, and in 2005 one of the top backstroke swimmers in the world was Wilson’s Jessica Hardy. Cynthia and Jessica just happened to be in the same graduating class.

8. Rachel Wacholder Scott (Laguna Beach) 

Rachel Wacholder Scott’s name appears all over the University of Colorado record books. After graduating from CU, Wacholder Scott went on to become one of the top beach players in the world. She and teammate Elaine Youngs ended Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings’ 50-match win streak in 2005. Wacholder has also partnered with Walsh-Jennings and Olympic silver medalist Jen Kessy.

In high school, Wacholder Scott played for Laguna Beach, which has historically been one of California’s top boys and girls volleyball programs. Wacholder Scott helped the Laguna Beach Artists (the mascot changed to the Breakers several years ago) reach the Division I state championship in 1992, but they lost to Corona del Mar. 

Side note: There were several seasons in the 1990s in which the state semifinals cross-matched the north and south teams. That created the method in which two Southern California teams could play each other in a state final.

Did you know?

In her younger years at Laguna Beach, Wacholder Scott’s coach was Lance Stewart. He later became the head coach at Corona del Mar, and Stewart was the coach at Corona del Mar when it beat Laguna Beach in the state final.

9. Keao Burdine (La Habra)

Keao Burdine was the MVP of the NCAA championships in 2002 and 2003, and led USC to a 52-match win streak. April Ross and Nicole Davis (see No. 10) were also on those USC teams, but Burdine was younger and went on to lead USC to yet another Final Four appearance in 2004. After college, Burdine and Ross played beach volleyball together briefly. 

The Highlanders of La Habra High School had won two CIF state titles when Burdine joined the team in the late '90s, and in 2000 she led them back to the championship match. Burdine’s team, however, lost in that match to St. Francis of Mountain View.

Did you know?

Burdine has a movie credit on her resume. It was for the 2008 beach volleyball flick “Impact Point.” 

10. Nicole Davis (Lincoln, Stockton)

Nicole Davis is regarded as one of the best American liberos in history. After winning NCAA titles at USC in 2002 and 2003, Davis joined the national team. With Team USA, Davis won two Olympic silver medals and gold at the 2014 World Championships.

In high school, Davis’ Lincoln team played her future USC teammate April Ross and her Newport Harbor team in both the 1998 and 1999 CIF Division 1 championship matches. Davis’ team came out on the losing end of both meetings, but the 1998 match was close as could be. Lincoln won the second game 18-16 and lost in the fourth 19-17. 

Did you know? 

Lincoln advanced to the 1999 D1 state final by defeating Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, which was led by Kelli Walsh, the younger sister of Kerri Walsh-Jennings.

11. Krista Vansant (Redlands East Valley)

As an outside hitter at the University of Washington, Krista Vansant won the Honda Award and was the AVCA National Player of the Year in 2013. After graduating, Vansant joined the national team. 

Vansant’s mother Tricia was her high school coach at Redlands East Valley, and in 2008 and 2009 the Wildcats lost to Archbishop Mitty in the Division 2 state championship. In 2010, Vansant’s senior year, REV didn’t make the state final, but Vansant was named Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year.

Did you know?

Vansant’s jersey number was just retired at the University of Washington in early November, and the Huskies upset national No. 2 Stanford on the same night.

12. Alix Klineman (Mira Costa, Manhattan Beach)

A star player for Stanford from 2007 to 2010, Alix Klineman played indoor professionally after college and trained with the national team. Just recently, the 6-foot-4 outside hitter has been testing her talents on the beach, finishing second at the 2017 AVP San Francisco Open with Lane Carico.

As a sophomore in high school, Klineman led Mira Costa to a Division 1 state title with a 3-1 victory over Nevada Union of Grass Valley. The Mustangs were in Division 2 in 2005 and 2006 and won both of those state titles for a three-peat, defeating Archbishop Mitty in the final both years. Klineman was named the 2006-07 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year.

Did you know?

Klineman has been a professional indoor player since 2012, competing for teams in Italy and Brazil.

13. Jessica Gysin (St. Francis, Mountain View)

Jessica Gysin’s college career at USC started slowly, as she was forced to sit out two seasons with injuries before beginning to build her Trojan legacy in earnest in 2006. By the time she finished her senior season in 2009, Gysin had become one of USC’s all-time points leaders. She later transitioned to the beach game and was named Cuervo Pro Beach Series Rookie of the Year in 2011.

In high school, Gysin won four CIF state titles in a row with her St. Francis team. Her freshman and sophomore seasons, Gysin’s St. Francis squad on Division 2 state titles. Then in 2002, the Ms. Volleyball State Player of the Year led the Lancers to their only Division 1 crown, defeating a Long Beach Wilson team led by Cynthia Barboza. In Gysin’s senior season, the Lancers won it in Division 3.

Did you know?

In 2013, Gysin married NFL quarterback Jimmy Clausen. He was a CIF state champion in football at Oaks Christian of Westlake Village in 2006. Jimmy was close, but he wasn’t state player of the year, like his wife.

14. Wendy Rush Humphreys (Rim of the World, Lake Arrowhead)

Four-time NCAA All-American Wendy Rush Humphreys helped Stanford reach the national championship match three times in her collegiate career. A member of the national team in 1989 and 1990, Rush Humphreys was the California Ms. Volleyball State Player of the Year as a high school senior in 1983. 

That same year, Rim of the World High School won its third CIF Division 3 title, with Rush Humphreys leading the way. At that time, D3 was the smallest division in the CIF’s three-division format, which expanded to five divisions in 1991. In 1981 and 1982, those state champion Rim of the World squads went undefeated.

Did you know?

The only three small school players who’ve been Ms. Volleyball are Rush Humphreys, Tara Cross-Battle, and Lexi Sun of Santa Fe Christian, who is now a freshman at Texas. Sun’s team wasn’t in a small school CIF division, however, due the advent of the Open Division.

15. Jennifer Saleaumua Taeatafa (Bonita Vista, Chula Vista)

A two-time All-American at Nebraska, Jennifer Saleaumua Taeatafa was the Huskers’ career digs leader until Kayla Banwarth and later Justine Wong-Orantes surpassed her 1,568 digs total. 

The current head coach of Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California, led her Bonita Vista team to a record-breaking 40-0 record in 2000, defeating Stockton St. Mary’s in the state championship match 16-14, 15-9, 14-16, 13-15, 15-10. Saleaumua Taeatafa had 57 kills in that match, which isn’t just the CIF state finals record but is among the highest totals ever reported in any match in state history.

Did you know?

A setter in the same CIF state final in which Saleaumua had 57 kills — Megan Wootton of Stockton St. Mary’s — also ended with an insane total of 82 assists.

16. Taylor Carico (Mira Costa, Manhattan Beach)

Taylor Carico was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2006, and was well on her way to breaking a few setting records at USC when she decided to transfer to Minnesota for her senior season. She also played professionally overseas.

As a high school junior and senior, Carico helped Mira Costa start its run of four-consecutive state titles (2004-2007). In 2004, Carico and Costa won the D1 crown and then in 2005, the Mustangs knocked off 40-0 Archbishop Mitty to take the D2 title. That year, Carico was named the state player of the year.

Did you know?

The main reason Carico didn’t become a pro beach player, like her younger sister Lane, is because she has concentrated on pursuing a legal career. She’s currently working for a firm in Manhattan Beach.

17. Melanie Wade (Palo Alto)

Melanie Wade earned a starting spot in the University of Washington lineup midway through her freshman year, and she held onto it all the way through her four-year career en route to earning Pac-12 Honorable Mention three times.

Wade’s Palo Alto High School team became the first team from Northern California to win back-to-back D1 titles. With the 6-4 Wade leading the way, Palo's state title wins in 2010 and 2011 were absolute thrillers. In 2010, the Vikings won 17-15 in the fifth set over favored Long Beach Poly. They repeated in 2011 against Marymount of Los Angeles and it again went to 17-15 in the fifth set. Wade had 27 kills against Marymount.

Did you know?

After four years as an indoor player at Washington, Wade joined the beach team at UW. She was a grad student, studying for her master’s degree, and her last collegiate kill was just last spring.

18. Stesha Selsky (Marymount, Los Angeles)

Playing libero her freshman year at Michigan, Stesha Selsky set the U-M record for most digs by a freshman in a season. An accomplished beach player, Selsky later used her well-rounded skillset to serve as a setter before going back to her libero position and earning the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honor as a senior 2007.

In high school, Selsky’s Marymount team won four straight state titles in Division 4. In 2003, the Sailors topped Menlo School of Atherton. Selsky wasn’t just the 2003 Ms. Volleyball State POY; she was also the ESPNHS Ms. Volleyball for the nation.

Did you know?

Selsky’s mother was a player on Long Beach State’s 1973 team that won a national title and finished unbeaten. Selsky’s brother Steve played baseball for the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds.

19. Rachel Williams (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose)

Rachel Williams played for Stanford in college, and although she didn’t become an All-American like some others on this list she was a solid contributor on one of the nation’s top teams for all four of her years of eligibility (2010 to 2013).

At Archbishop Mitty, she was a two-time Ms. Volleyball State Player of the Year for 2008 and 2009, leading the Monarchs to D2 state titles both years. Her 2008 team ended its season 42-1, and in 2009 the squad went 39-0 and was considered the top high school team in the country.

Did you know?

Williams was inducted into Mitty’s Hall of Fame in 2017 and her head coach, Bret Almazan-Cezar, also was inducted at the same time.

20. Falyn Fonoimoana (Mira Costa, Manhattan Beach)

One of the top recruits in the class of 2011 —if not the top — Fonoimoana ranked second on the 2011 USC team in points and kills, and was named the Pac-10’s Freshman of the Year, but was declared ineligible prior to her sophomore season. She went on to spend some time in the national team gym and has played on various professional beach volleyball tours.

As a high school sophomore in 2007, Fonoimoana led the Mustangs to the D2 championship and was named Ms. Volleyball State Player of the Year. She also was a freshman in 2006 when Costa also won D2 state crown. It was part of the school’s four-peat of state titles from 2004 to 2007.

Did you know?

Falyn's uncle Eric Fonoimoana won an Olympic beach volleyball gold medal with Dain Blanton at the 2000 games in Sydney.

By Mark Tennis

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