The Balboa Bay Volleyball Club 45's recently won national championship 45 and older division. Back row, from left: Chris Knowles, Tom Duke, Jud Buchler, Scott Fort, Steve Blue and David Seidner. Front row, from left: Tom Beard, Drew Sheward, Captain Sean Sheward, Leif Hanson and Anthony Curci.

The Balboa Bay Volleyball Club 45's recently won national championship 45 and older division. Back row, from left: Chris Knowles, Tom Duke, Jud Buchler, Scott Fort, Steve Blue and David Seidner. Front row, from left: Tom Beard, Drew Sheward, Captain Sean Sheward, Leif Hanson and Anthony Curci. (Courtesy of Charlie Brande / June 12, 2014)

The Balboa Bay Volleyball Club was started in 1975 in the small gym at the Balboa Bay Club.

Since that time, with hundreds of great athletes, Balboa Bay players have enjoyed tremendous success through their high school programs, throughout their college careers and even through some Olympic Championships. In the volleyball world, it is safe to say, that they have won more national championships than any other boys' volleyball club in the United States, by far.

The Balboa Bay Volleyball Club 45's recently reached a monumental level when they won the United States Volleyball Assn. National Championship 45 and older division held at the Phoenix Convention Center. With teams from Venezuela, Canada, Brazil and the United States, the BBVC 45's captured the championship with a two-game win over Fog Canada who was the defending champion.

Under the leadership of Sean Sheward and the efforts of the Balboa Bay Club and Kevin Martin, the team started training in early January. After weeks of training coupled with weekend tournaments, the Balboa Bay 45's were ready. The tournament included wins over Volley & Cia (Brazil) and Venezuela Centro, and finished with a double final victory over the defending champs from Canada.

BBVC was led by the setting of Tom Beard and Anthony Curci who was a member of many Balboa Bay teams during his youth, the outside hitting of Chris Knowles, Steve Blue, Leif Hanson and Peter Helfrich, and the ball control of liberos Sean Sheward and Drew Sheward.

A key move was on the second day of the tourney when Jud Buechler was moved from middle to opposite and then received the majority of the sets. Jud, who was a teammate of Michael Jordan during their championship NBA seasons, carried the load and was voted MVP of the tournament.

Chris Knowles was also voted All-American. Also in the lineup was Scott Fortune who was a middle blocker on the 1988 Olympic Gold Medal team and actually put match point away against the Russians to win it all. David Seidner had a big service ace versus Venezuela, which also ignited the team.

While Balboa Bay volleyball has won many championships with "and Under" in them (16-and-under,etc), this was the first "and-over" championship. Now the boys will have to work to continue this tradition. One thing, they definitely cannot "age" out of the division.

In other age groups, there was an assortment of locals participating. Dr. Steve Wynn played in the 55's while Steve Vrebalovich (Costa Mesa, Orange Coast College, UC Irvine, and Pepperdine) and Todd Miller led their Western States team to the 50's championship. Miller was a former Corona del Mar and USC player.

CHARLIE BRANDE is a local club volleyball coach and former volleyball head coach at UC Irvine, Newport Harbor High and Corona del Mar.