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Cougars’ Andrulis pursues lofty goal

When Chris Andrulis first walked through the gym at Coronado High School, volleyball was the furthest thing from his mind.

Four years later, the senior opposite is one of the top players in Southern Nevada and a Division I college signee.

“I didn’t even know what volleyball was my freshman year,” said Andrulis, who has 160 kills, 60 digs and 32 aces this season. “My mom forced me to play volleyball my sophomore year, and I ended up making the team. … And ever since then, I’ve tried my hardest with volleyball.”

Andrulis’ next challenge will be trying to take Coronado (10-3, 8-1 Southeast), a team that has become a fixture near the top of the Southeast League, to a Class 4A boys volleyball state title.

His school owns 10 state championships, most of them in tennis and bowling. The closest the Cougars have come to a volleyball title was runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2010, both of which Andrulis remembers well.

The 6-foot-7-inch UC San Diego signee who averages 4.3 kills per set with a 34.5 hitting percentage hopes he can play a large role in the program’s first state crown.

“It gets kind of discouraging, going to state twice and losing both times,” Andrulis said. “But I use all that discouragement and sadness to motivate me. I play every point like it was state. And hopefully the third time’s the charm.

“I know what it’s like to win every game, then go to the end and lose. I don’t want that to happen again ever.”

Andrulis tries to inspire his teammates, and that — along with his height and lengthy wingspan — make him a dangerous player.

“Physically, he’s intimidating,” Coronado coach Matt Johnson said. “He hits the ball as hard as anybody in Southern Nevada. The intimidation factor definitely helps out.

“It’s hard to ignore him. Blockers may pay too much attention to him, and it helps to free up guys like (outside hitters) Brandon Dau and Jahren Makanoa.”

Johnson said Andrulis’ leadership is also critical to a team that returned only two starters.

“He leads more by example than by his words,” the second-year coach said. “He’s played club volleyball, so he knows what some of the best volleyball is like outside of Nevada.”

Andrulis had an affinity for basketball, but when he started playing volleyball as a sophomore, college offers came quickly. National title contenders such as Long Beach State, Cal State Northridge and Hawaii were just a few of the schools to offer him a scholarship.

But Andrulis chose UC San Diego.

“I had many offers, but UCSD stuck out because it was a great academic school,” said Andrulis, who plans to major in chemistry. “I love learning, and I try hard in the classroom as well as the gym.”

Coronado’s chances to hang a state title banner might depend on Andrulis’ gym rat demeanor.

“He loves the game, and that spreads throughout everybody else on the team,” Johnson said. “He has high expectations, but he’s patient. That helps me as a coach to keep these guys going in the right direction.”

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