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Building from the ground up

Boys’ Volleyball: La Cañada High has hired a new boys’ volleyball coach — and he’s already thinking long-term.

March 11, 2010|By Seth Amitin

Here he is, the new coach, wearing a “Club West Volleyball” T-shirt, snap pants and some shiny Nikes, a clipboard from the varsity game in hand, sitting front row to watch the La Cañada boys’ junior varsity volleyball team get off to a hot start against Burroughs, 8-2, in the first frame of their first match on March 1.

Only minutes earlier, his varsity team didn’t fare so well, receiving a beat down by Burroughs’ varsity squad, 13-25, 14-25, 20-25.

While a loss like that in the first match of the year would be demoralizing for some coaches, La Cañada’s new head coach, David Woo, was quite optimistic.

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“There’s a lot of stuff to work on,” Woo says, “but we improved throughout the game. Look at the score—20 points in the final game. I told them to not focus on the loss, [but] focus on improving.

“Right now, I just want them to compete. This school can surprise a lot of people.”

And so it begins.

After a long search, La Cañada has officially announced the hiring of Woo as the new head coach for the La Cañada boys’ volleyball team with only a few weeks before the first game of the season.

He was a libero when he played—he’ll casually joke about his height sometimes when mentioning it—and his goal is to set up a defensive program and to coach the students.

“We have a chance to do damage in this league,” Woo said. “We have a lot of seniors this year.”

It’s Woo’s first attempt at head coaching in high school—his previous experiences in coaching have been at Club West in Pasadena, where he coached a few of La Cañada girls’ team members, and at John Marshall High, where he was an assistant coach.

He has a mountain to climb. The La Cañada boys’ volleyball program has never been on solid ground. Woo is the fourth coach in six years.

The program has won the Rio Hondo League title once in its history—the fewest of any sport at the school. That year was 2006, when the girls’ volleyball head coach Brock Turner took it over for two years. Turner, however, was only filling in until a reasonable replacement could be found.

“In the spring of 2005, I was just helping out and running practices while they were trying to clear a coach,” Turner said in an e-mail. “[The coach] never cleared, so instead of staying just two weeks, I stayed two years.”

Turner says it was a great two years, but in 2006, he wanted to return to girls’ volleyball full-time and the freshman coach, Andrew Watson, was hired.

Watson was replaced by Murphy after one year and Murphy quit after last season.

Though Woo was only officially hired two weeks before the season started, 60 students tried out for the program.

Woo said he’s sought help from Turner and girls’ assistant coach Paul Kim and others in the school’s sports department when he’s needed it.

He gazes at the junior varsity team, who beat Burroughs in the first game, 20-25. “We have decent talent here,” he said. “I’m here to stay for as long as they’ll have me. I’d love to build a program.”


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