clear sky


Laguna Beach

Laguna’s U16 water polo girls win first place in the Platinum Division at the Junior Olympics

Lagunas U16 group

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by John Singer

For the third year in a row, Laguna’s U16 water polo girls, representing SET (Saddleback-El Toro), have won their division in the Junior Olympics. The team is primarily made up of LBHS sophomores and juniors. In the semifinals game against SoCal on July 28, the team won 8-2, followed by a championship victory against Rose Bowl 10-5. Nicole Struss was named Most Valuable Player. The team is coached by Ethan Damato, who is also the head coach of the LBHS Girls Water Polo program. 

Back Row (L-R): Lela McCarroll, Imani Clemmons, Carly McMurray, Ella Schneider, Jessie Rose, Emma Singer, and Nicole Struss; Front Row (L-R): Laine Hourigan, Rachael Carver, Melanie Damato, Emma Lineback, Molly Renner, Izzy Rosensitto, Ava Houlahan, and Skylar Kidd.

Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach announces chair of 11th Annual Girls Night Out event

The 11th Anniversary and Grand Finale of Girls Night Out will be held on Thursday, Sept 19 from 6 - 10 p.m. at the beautiful Wilson home in Laguna Beach. 

The Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach is proud to announce that the chair of Girls Night Out this year is Gretchen McConnell, owner/partner of Starfish Laguna. 

Gretchen has been a supporter of the Club for almost 10 years now and has a real passion for giving back. She has held a variety of fundraisers to help various charities in our community. Gretchen commented, “I am thrilled and honored to serve as chair of this fantastic event.”

Boys and Girls Gretchen

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Owner/partner of Starfish Laguna Gretchen McConnell is chair of Girls Night Out

This event marks 11 fabulous years of our community’s women supporting the Club. The ladies enjoy an evening in a beautiful oceanfront home, amazing food, signature cocktails, wine, martinis, shopping, pampering, and fun. In addition to all of that, each lady will go home with a swag bag full of girly goodies.

Early bird tickets are selling fast and can be purchased at

This event is generously supported by Wilson Automotive Group, Montage Laguna Beach, Newport Lexus, Starfish, and Winston’s Crown Jewelers.

For more information, contact Michelle Ray-Fortezzo at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 715-7584.

Former LBHS athlete Dain Blanton appointed head coach of USC Women’s Beach Volleyball


Dain Blanton, formerly of Laguna Beach and an Olympic gold medalist, was selected as the new head coach of the USC Women’s Beach Volleyball program – as announced on July 26 by USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann. Blanton racked up a long and successful athletic career at Laguna Beach high School (LBHS) from 1987-1990 and went on to win gold in the 2000 Olympics for Beach Volleyball.

Of his time at LBHS, Blanton says, “I started there on the beaches in Laguna, and now I’m happy to have achieved another chapter in my career.”

Prior to his appointment as head coach, Blanton was a volunteer assistant coach at USC for four seasons (2015-18) as the Women of Troy won the 2015 AVCA national crown and the 2016 and 2017 NCAA championships. USC also captured back-to-back (2016-17) Pac-12 titles.

As quoted in a USC Trojan press release, Swann said, “We are delighted to have Dain Blanton back with our women’s volleyball program and this time in a leadership role as the head coach. He was vitally involved in all three of our national championships and we believe that he has the experience, knowledge, ability, and confidence to maintain our program at a championship level. He not only is an excellent teacher of the sport and in-game strategist, but he is charismatic and has strong communication skills. Most importantly, he truly cares about developing each student-athlete as a whole person and providing them with a well-rounded collegiate experience.”

Former LBHS closeup

Courtesy of

Dain Blanton, new head coach of USC Women’s Beach Volleyball

Of his selection, Blanton said, “This is an amazing opportunity to lead the USC women’s beach volleyball program and I thank the administration for the faith they have in me. During my four years as an assistant here, I saw how this program stood for excellence and success and I saw the support we received from the Trojan Family. I felt that we could do something special here and we did, we won a lot. That experience inspired my goal of becoming a head coach and, if I could do so, to be the head coach some day at USC. With my background as a player and coach, and my time at USC, I think this is a perfect fit. I look forward to continuing the championship tradition of the USC women’s beach volleyball program.”

 Blanton replaces two-time National Coach of the Year Anna Collier, who retired from collegiate coaching in June after serving as the only head coach in the program’s eight-year history.

 Blanton helped USC produce eight AVCA All-Americans and had a hand in coaching USC’s top pair of Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes to the 2015 AVCA Pairs National Championship and the 2017 USAV Collegiate National Pairs Championship (the duo also won Pac-12 pairs titles in 2016 and 2017).

Former LBHS girls

Photo by Ed Chan/VB

Dain Blanton, right, coaching Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes while all three were at USC in 2017

 During the 2019 season, Blanton served as a color analyst and sideline reporter for ESPN, covering the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship, and the Olympic Channel, covering the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship.

Blanton’s career at LBHS

Although he excelled in volleyball during his time at LBHS, Blanton also had an impressive record in basketball. 

Frank Aronoff, LBHS Scorekeeper, reports that in 1990, during Blanton’s participation in basketball at LBHS under Coach Ed Bowen and Assistant Coach Bret Fleming, he led Laguna to SSCIF D4 Finals. Blanton was selected all-league and all-CIF in 1990 and led the team in scoring, averaging 18.0 points per game. He holds the school record of 19 for free throws during a game against Chino in 1989.

During his LBHS volleyball career under Coach Lance Stewart, Blanton participated in the All Pacific Coast League in 1989 and in 1990 was chosen as League MVP, All CIF, and Orange County Player of the Year.

After graduating high school and receiving a scholarship in volleyball, Blanton went on to Pepperdine University where he was an All-American and on the 1992 National Championship team as a sophomore. He graduated with a degree in Public Relations and a teaching credential in Physical Education.

After graduating from Pepperdine University

Upon graduating, he joined the Pro Beach Volleyball tour and became the first African-American to win a major title when he won the Hermosa Beach Grand Slam in 1997. From there, Blanton directed his energy and attention toward a new goal of becoming one of the best players in the world. 

On September 26, 2000, Blanton and his volleyball partner Eric Fonoimoana struck gold at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. According to, it was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport when they took down the world’s top-seeded team from Brazil. More than 10,000 spectators cheered as Blanton and Fonoimoana played a near-perfect tournament and stunned the Brazilians to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

He then partnered with current USC men’s volleyball head coach Jeff Nygaard at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and became the first US male beach volleyball Olympian to play in two Olympic Games.

In his career, Blanton had two FIVB World Tour gold medals and six medals total and was the first male African-American to win a major beach volleyball event, the 1997 AVP Hermosa Grand Slam. He played his last professional event in 2010, on the AVP Tour.

Broadcasting career

In 2007, Blanton began broadcasting beach volleyball games for a small cable station and then got an opportunity at Fox Sports West to cover high school football. From that start, he has been climbing the ladder covering many sports including NBA, beach volleyball, NCAA volleyball, basketball, and football, and MLB while working for ABC, NBC, ESPN, Fox Sports Net, and Universal Sports Network. 

Another of Blanton’s career highlights included a stint as on-air broadcaster for NBC during the Olympic Games. Hopefully, we’ll see him on-air again as a broadcaster for the 2020 Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Laguna girls bring home gold, silver and bronze from 2019 Water Polo Junior Olympics 

Last weekend in Irvine, Laguna Beach girls in three divisions again brought home medals from the 50th annual USA Water Polo Junior Olympics National Championship. Junior Olympics is the world’s largest water polo tournament, this year hosting 866 qualifying teams from across the United States. 

For the third consecutive year, Laguna’s 12U girls earned a gold medal and the National Championship title in the top Championship Division. Laguna’s 14U “A” team, playing in the finals for the 3rd consecutive year, won a silver medal in the Championship Division. The Laguna 14U “B” team won a bronze medal in the Classic Division. 

Laguna girls 12U

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by KLC Fotos

12U Girls (L-R): Coach Marc Umeda, Siena Jumani, Molly Wilkerson (co-MVP), Elizabeth Nicoloff, Maya Tovar, Kaelyn Chism, Kara Carver, Presley Jones, Kirra Pantaleon, Katelyn Stayt, Sofia Umeda (co-MVP), and Coach Rob Carver

“A gold, silver and bronze was a great JOs result for our girls. I am very proud of how hard they all worked,” said Laguna Beach Water Polo Club Director Chad Beeler. 

The 12U Girls started the tournament on Thursday with an 18-1 win over Arroyo Grande and an 18-2 win over the Trojan USC club team. Friday, the girls beat Huntington Beach 18-3 and Long Beach Shores 14-12. Thanks to two wins on Friday, the team only needed to play one game on Saturday, and beat Northwood 9-7 to go directly to the semis on Sunday. They then beat Vanguard 11-5, earning a spot in the finals against Los Angeles Premier, winning 12-8 for a gold medal. 

Laguna girls 14U

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by KLC Fotos

14U A Girls (L-R): Lauren Schneider, Livvie Oullette, Jordan Schneider, Avery Montiel, Ava Knepper, Charlotte Riches, Cleo Washer, Helene MacBeth, Lauren Short, and Myha Pinto

Also playing in the Championship Division, the 14U A girls started out Thursday with a pair of wins, 17-0 over American River and 14-4 over Stanford. On Friday, the girls prevailed in a tough game over Santa Barbara Premier, 8-5. Their streak continued with a 6-3 win over Corona Del Mar. The 14U A girls also only had to play one game on Saturday, a nice 10-6 win over the other Santa Barbara team, SB 805. 

The girls proceeded directly to the semis on Sunday morning, where they crushed San Diego Shores 9-1. The championship game against SOCAL

was a defense-led battle, and the ninth meeting this season between these top two US 14U teams. The previous eight games were split between four wins for Laguna and four wins for SOCAL. The Laguna girls went out hard, taking the lead in the first quarter. Despite a scoreless third quarter for both teams, SOCAL ended up with 5-2 win and the Laguna girls earning a silver medal. 

Laguna girls 14U B

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by KLC Fotos

14U B Girls: Back row (L-R) – Sophia Arata, Taylor Naughton, Makenna Jenal, Nina Rogers, Eleanor Ramsey, Sophie Colladay, Chiara Amoroso, and Ryley McDennon; Bottom row (L-R) – Rebecca Storke, Claire Turner, Grace Fermelia, and Coach Bridgette Alvarez (missing is Bella Nenadov)

Playing in the Classic Division, the 14U B team’s first game on Thursday saw a win over Gold Coast 17-1 followed by a loss to SOCAL B 6-8. On Friday the girls won both their games, 10-7 over San Diego Shores B and a 9-3 win over Santa Barbara Premier B. As with the 12U and 14U A teams, the 14U B girls also only had to play one game on Saturday. This was against San Clemente Tritons who they beat 6-5, taking them directly to the semis on Sunday morning. This close game against the SET B team resulted in a shoot-out loss. The bronze medal game saw the girls again play the SOCAL B team, in a high-scoring 15-13 bronze medal-winning game. 

Special School Board meeting tonight limited to closed session, public comment


The Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education announced Monday that it would hold a special meeting tonight, July 23, that will include a closed session at which the board will confer with legal counsel on significant exposure to litigation.

A report on the closed session will follow, according to the agenda for the meeting. 

No information was made available on which specific litigation would be discussed. However, Board Member Dee Perry has notified the district that she intends to file a lawsuit.

A public comment period will be held prior to the closed session. 

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the District headquarters at 550 Blumont St. 

Compiled from information supplied by the School District.

School Board meeting turns hostile


The Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education was confronted by harsh criticism inside and outside the district headquarters where a meeting was held Tuesday. 

While about 20 sign-toting protestors stood by the entryway, 12 speakers went to the rostrum questioning a variety of recent board actions. Comments addressed the board’s and district Superintendent Jason Viloria’s perceived antagonism toward board member Dee Perry; the board’s decision to ignore a district bylaw tradition by not naming Perry president of the board after her term as clerk; Perry’s exclusion from a subcommittee recently created to review confidential matters normally addressed in closed session; her decision to file an intent to sue the board; and the amount of taxpayer money being spent on legal fees stemming from those actions. 

“I can’t believe what’s going on with the board,” parent Jennifer Kinnier said during the public comment period. “I can’t believe the way you have been re-writing the laws and it saddens me that you are excluding her voice, because it makes me think you don’t care about the kids.” 

Prior to public comments, board president Jan Vickers announced she had pulled an item from the agenda of the scheduled closed session and blamed Perry for the decision.

“Item 4A on the closed session agenda was intended to allow the board to discuss, with legal counsel, the claims made by Ms. Perry’s lawyer and her meet-and-confer request,” Vickers announced at the start of the meeting. 

Vickers said she pulled Item 4A because Perry had not confirmed that she would recuse herself from the discussion or deliberation on the item. 

“Legal opinions from the California Attorney General and the Fair Political Practices Commission confirm that when a member of a board or counsel is also a claimant or plaintiff in litigation seeking damages against the entity that employs them, that member has a conflict of interest and cannot participate in decisions related to the claim or litigation,” Vickers stated. “Also, an entity cannot maintain attorney-client privilege if it confers with legal counsel and the individual threatening to sue the entity is a part of the conversation.”

Perry contended on Wednesday that she should have been permitted to participate on Item 4B in the closed session, and that Vickers’ emails prior to the meeting did not specifically bifurcate the items.

“I had no idea what to expect when I came to the closed session, if I would be publicly asked to recuse myself, if I would be allowed to attend the closed session on the second item, or if I would be excluded from the entire meeting,” Perry stated in an email.

The board did meet on the second item on the closed session agenda regarding the new deputy superintendent position, which had no connection to Perry’s potential litigation, and she participated in that discussion.

“During the closed session everyone was polite but a bit tense,” Perry stated in an email. 

“I have worked for 40 years in education and I have never, never, ever had issues like I saw the other night,” parent David Flores said Wednesday. “This board is dysfunctional.”

Flores said he was shocked by what he saw as Vickers’ loss of control over the meeting. Her attempt to deny hearing a speaker who chose to remain anonymous was thwarted as a Brown Act violation by attorney Jennifer Zeiter from the audience. Vickers also appeared to some at the meeting to threaten to shut down public comment after 20 minutes, but relented when the audience erupted and the board approved extending the time. 

 “The tone of the meeting from several of the speakers was rather impolite, degenerating into shouting and speaking out of turn,” Vickers stated in an email. “We also had several speakers who were courteous and calm.”

She said that it is protocol for public comment to be limited to 20 minutes on one item and that the board must be consulted and agree to extension of the time allotted.

“That is what I did, and the board members concurred, and we took the next speaker,” said Vickers. “I did not suggest ending public comment.”

According to the agenda made available to the public, speakers are limited to three minutes each with a maximum of 20 minutes per topic, not 20 minutes overall. 

“A pox on all your houses,” said TuRae Fazio.

Reports by district officials and board members followed the public comment period. Board clerk Carol Normandin was told that it was an appropriate time for her to make some comments. She had a list.

“We haven’t had a subcommittee meeting,” Normandin said. “Board member Perry never nominated herself as president. [School district attorney] Mark Bresee’s [law]suit in San Diego was upheld, dismissed for lack of merit.” 

Normandin also stated that the board could not include Perry in discussions of her potential lawsuit. 

And finally, “Even if she doesn’t receive confidential information, she still has a vote and she still has her voice,” Normandin said.

Laguna Beach Girls Water Polo wins state title

The LBHS Girls Water Polo team captured another state title this past weekend at the California State High School Water Polo Championships, the third consecutive title for the team.

The top-seeded Breakers and reigning CIF-SS Division 1 champions beat Newport Harbor 7-5 and Foothill 9-1 to secure the title. 

Congratulations to the team!

Laguna Beach group

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Front Row (L-R): Molly Renner, Morgan VanAlphen, Grace Houlahan, Rachael Carver, Tea Poljak, Lauren Schneider

Back Row (L-R): Nicole Struss, Ava Houlahan, Jessie Rose, Imani Clemons, Natasha Denny, Emma Singer, Kenedy Corlett

Tonight’s School Board meeting will include restructuring of District management positions

The agenda for tonight’s (Tuesday, July 16) regular LBUD Board of Education meeting has been posted online here. Open session will begin at 6 p.m. at the District office, at 550 Blumont St, with closed session occurring beforehand at 5 p.m.

Tonight's School outside

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Tonight’s School Board meeting includes restructuring of select District management positions 

The agenda includes a Board discussion regarding governance training for the Board from the Aspen Group. Action items for the Board’s consideration include approval of an updated agreement with College and Career Advantage (CCA) and restructuring of select District management positions.

SET U16 wins 2019 Girls US Club Water Polo Championship

The SET U16 club won first place at the US Club Championship June 30 at Norco High School. The team is made up mostly of Laguna Beach High School varsity players. Congratulations to the team!

SET U16 team

Submitted photo

Front row (L-R):  Lela McCarroll, Rachael Carver, Skylar Kidd, Izzy Rosensitto, Emma Singer, and Ava Houlahan; Middle row: Molly Renner and Nicole Struss; Back row: Coach Trevor Lyle, Carly McMurray, Imani Clemons, Cami Marz , Emma Lineback, Ella Schneider, Jessie Rose, Laine Hourigan, Mel Damato, and Head Coach Ethan Damato

Laguna Beach Little League All-Stars advance to championship game on Saturday

After a long month of practice and scrimmages, the Laguna Beach Little League 10-year-old All-Stars were on a bit of a run in the district tournament on July 2, defeating last year’s champs Aliso Viejo to move on to the championship game this Saturday, July 6. 

The squad is comprised of 13 players, all of whom played in the AAA division for Laguna Beach this past season, including: Wyatt Bogdan, Darius Morales, Spencer Noonan, Achilles Morales, Jack Hurst, Logan Guererro, Brady Stringham, Will Kimball, Aaron Crosby, Callum Murray, Becket Thomson, Noah Kimball, and Jake Martin. 

Coaches are Jeff Bogdan and Preston Thomson. The Manager is Sean Murray.

Manager Sean Murray says, “We have been practicing daily since June 2nd with many scrimmages against other 10-year-old all-star squads. We play in the district 55 of Little League’s tournament which is being hosted by Northwood Little League and the games are played at Hicks Canyon Park in Irvine.”

Evidently all the work has paid off. 

The tournament started this past Saturday, June 29 with two games. 

Murray says, “We had a bye and played Laguna Niguel Little League on Sunday, June 30, beating them in a 16-1 shortened game because of the Mercy Rule.” 

Laguna Beach 10 yo team2

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Back row (L-R): Brady Stringham, Darius Morales, Jack Hurst, Will Kimball, Wyatt Bogdan, Aaron Crosby, Achilles Morales

Bottom row (L-R): Spencer Noonan, Jake Martin, Logan Guerrero, Becket Thomson, Noah Kimball, Callum Murray

Wyatt Bogdan pitched all three innings of the game on 31 pitches to get the win. There were also multiple big hits by players that led to the win. 

“[Tuesday] night, July 2nd, we faced off with Aliso Viejo, the team that won last year’s 9-year-old tournament over Laguna Beach in the finals. We won [this year’s game] 4-2,” Murray reports. 

Will Kimball got the win going five and a third shutout innings on the mound. Brady Stringham secured the save with two strikeouts to end the game, and Achilles Morales drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the fourth with a sacrifice fly. 

Key hits from Aaron Crosby, Spencer Noonan, and Logan Guerrero sparked the team on offense. 

The next game is the championship on Saturday, July 6 at 1 p.m. at Hicks.

The team will play the winner of the Aliso Viejo – Northwood/Laguna Niguel matchup taking place on July 5. 

Murray says, “It is a double elimination tournament, so if we win Saturday, we win it all, lose and we go to a rematch on Sunday in a winner-take-all scenario.” 

He emphasizes that he really wants to get the kids the recognition they deserve for the hard work they have all been putting in since January of this year when tryouts started for Little League and rally some support from the town to come see them play Saturday. “There are a ton of ex-players and coaches in town who would love to hear about our success and more than likely make the trek out to Irvine on Saturday to see us play.”

Hicks Canyon Park is located at 3864 Viewpark Ave in Irvine.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Lynette Brasfield, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

Stacia Stabler is our Social Media Manager & Writer.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

Email: for questions about advertising


Email: with news releases, letters, etc.


© 2019 Stu News Laguna - All Rights Reserved.