By John Philip Wyllie
Plagued with injuries and academic disqualifications the Bonita Vista Barons Men’s Volleyball Team struggled to a mediocre .500 record last season and a quick first round departure from the CIF playoffs. This year things should be different. One of the reasons is sophomore opposite and outside hitter, Anthony Ballez.
“Anthony came in last year as a freshman and picked up volleyball very quickly. He probably could have been on the varsity team last year except that he lacked experience. In one year of playing JV volleyball, he has not only learned how to play the game, but has discovered his strengths,” said Baron Coach, Dan Neiman.
Ballez’s strengths are many. He hits well, passes well, blocks well and can even set when they need him to. He is also very athletic and physical.
“Anthony picks up the team’s level of play when he is out on the court. He is a natural leader,” Neiman added.
On a veteran team where 11 of the 16 players are seniors, one wouldn’t expect a sophomore to step up into a leadership role, but that is exactly what has happened. Ballez takes his volleyball very seriously.
“I first played volleyball in P.E. last year,” Ballez explained. “I liked it, so I tried to talk some of my friends into coming out for the team. I tried out and I made it.”
Ballez played football and basketball last year, but believes volleyball is more suited to his abilities. I enjoy playing volleyball a lot more than either football or basketball,” Hitting the ball hard and playing aggressively is what really turns him on. Volleyball has become a year-round sport for him.
“I played club volleyball last year. After our high school season was over I played for Seaside Volleyball up in Del Mar.”
The North County has long been a hotbed for volleyball. Playing alongside stars from powerhouse programs like Torrey Pines and La Costa Canyon proved to be very beneficial to his game.
“I improved all around, but especially in my hitting, passing and serving. It was a lot harder, there was a lot more competition and we played a lot of very good teams,” Ballez said.
Neiman is optimistic about the new season and hopes that Ballez will share some of what he learned with his teammates. Encouraged by the results of some recent scrimmages, he believes a Mesa League championship is within reach. So does Ballez.
“We have a lot of people coming back from last year so I think we will do well. With Will (Turner) in the middle we should have good hitting and blocking. We are not a really big team, but Will and Josh (Murray) have some height on them. Mainly, we have a lot of hustlers, people that are aggressive and players that will try hard.”