A group of former Malibu High Sharks volleyball players and a longtime Sharks volleyball coach were in the Malibu High gym again on March 15.
The past Sharks high-fived each other, reminisced about old times, and defeated Malibu’s current boys volleyball team 3-1 at the program’s first-ever alumni night celebration.
Jonathan “Boogie” Baldwin, co-captain of the boys team in 2014, his senior year, said it was good to be in the Malibu gym again and to see blasts from volleyball past.
“The night was really cool,” said Baldwin, who played volleyball in college after four years at MHS. “It’s always fun to be back in the old gym.”
Other former Sharks that played included Abiel Jimenez, Ben Apstein, Chris Papavassiliou, George Roth, Liam Moore, and Paige Stoker. Additionally, Carlos Gray, the Sharks volleyball coach from 2000-2013 attended the alumni spectacle.
Gray, whose been the volleyball coach at Pacific High for nine years now, thought the event was fantastic.
“It was surreal to me to be in that gym and not be the head coach,” said Gray, whose team beat Malibu on March 4. “It was tough, but it was great because I love that program.”
Gray said it was special to see players he coached years ago.
“You have those proud papa feelings, just seeing them all successful and flourishing,” he said. “It was a joy to be there.”
The event included the alumni talking to the current high school players and each other.
Derek Saenz, the coach of Malibu’s boys and girls volleyball squads since 2018, said holding an alumni night adds value to Malibu’s volleyball program.
“In college, when I played my first alumni game, there were Olympians, people that played volleyball professionally, on top of doctors and people that had great careers,” Saenz said. “It was such a cool experience to be like ‘Wow. You guys started here and went on these different paths.’ For the high school team, that is what I wanted; for them to get that feeling that life goes and feel people are excited about what they are doing.”
Saenz organized a couple of scrimmages that featured former college and professional volleyball players in the Malibu gym before the coronavirus pandemic. The alumni game, like those events, was held to show the current high school team there is life after high school volleyball.
The alumni get-together was three days before Malibu hosted a two-tournament in their gym. The Sharks played against Harvard-Westlake, Le Lycee, Hueneme, and Valley Christian in the event.
The team hosted Camarillo on Monday, and hosts Nordoff on Thursday. The game against Nordoff is the first of the heart of their Citrus Coast League schedule. Malibu’s second league game is on March 29 at home against Hueneme, whom they previously defeated on March 8.
The Sharks have four players — Finn Kelly Nate Mulder, Caleb Newman, and Axal Jimenez — from the Citrus Coast League championship team that advanced to the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section playoffs for the first time in program history last May.
The high school team, said Baldwin, left a good impression on him during their friendly match.
“There are some growing pains, but they have some studs,” he said. “It’s kind of like when I was in high school. You are going to have some people that are brand-new, and there is a lot to learn in a short amount of time.
Gray called Malibu’s current team a wonderful group.
“They are very coachable,” he said. “It was really cool to see them.”
Gray said the Sharks volleyball program has changed for the good since his time at the helm. He credited Saenz.
“What he does with getting kids involved in club volleyball, and getting younger kids involved,” Gray said. “I never did that. I put all my resources and time in developing the athletes that were there at the time. Derek has a broader vision. He is working from the ground up, getting kids from the grassroots level.”
Baldwin’s brothers played on the Malibu boys water polo team, which has held alumni games for over a decade now. The former Sharks volleyball player was previously a bit jealous that his brothers had an alumni event to participate in and he didn’t. Now, he is excited about the prospect of playing in other alumni games.
“It was really cool that Derek decided to do an alumni volleyball game,” said Baldwin, who plays volleyball at the beach weekly. “I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”
Saenz eventually wants to hold an alumni tournament.
“Alumni would play each other and whoever won the tournament would play the current boys team,” he said.