Sports Update: Kelly, Houlahan honored by OC athletic directors



Water Polo and Swim stars Ava Houlahan and Will Kelly were selected by the Sunset Conference as the Wave League Athletes of the Year and were honored recently by the Orange County Athletic Directors Association. Photos courtesy of Laguna Beach High School Athletics

Laguna’s Will Kelly and Ava Houlahan were selected by the Sunset Conference Athletic Directors as two of the conference’s four athletes of the year. They were honored on Monday, May 23 at Servite High School by the Orange County Athletic Directors Association

Will Kelly
A Fall 2021 First Team All Sunset Surf League, First Team All-CIF Open Division, and First Team All-County selection for Boys Water Polo, Will scored 110 goals in 25 games setting a school record averaging 4.40 goals per game. Will was also All-League in swimming this spring. He will be playing Water Polo next year for California.

Ava Houlahan
Ava was First Team All Sunset Surf League, First Team All-CIF Open Division, and First Team All-County selection this season for Water Polo. She led the talented Girls squad in scoring, steals and assists setting the single season school record in steals. Her swimming accolades included All-League honors in the 100-meter Fly and two relays. She will be playing water polo next season for Princeton.

Tommy Newton-Neal is Back with the Breakers

Laguna Athletic Director Denise Selbe announced that Tommy Newton-Neal is returning the Breakers as the ninth head coach in the Cross Country program’s history succeeding Scott Wittkop who resigned after 11 very successful seasons. Newton-Neal will also be the co-head coach with Wittkop for the Boys Track program.

Newton-Neal was the successful Boys Cross Country and Track coach at Newport Harbor where his squads won the 2021 Sunset Surf League Cross Country title and the Sunset Wave League Boys Track title.

The Laguna Cross Country program has qualified for the CIF finals the past 22 season meets were held, won two SSCIF titles and four state titles. Breakers have won 11 league titles since 2003.

As an athlete at Laguna, Newton-Neal was a First team All-League and All-CIF runner part of the D-IV State Champion Cross County squad as a senior. He went on to compete at UC Irvine, where he earned NCAA Academic All-American and scholar-athlete honors in cross country. As an Anteater, Newton-Neal double majored in Education Sciences and Sociology. He later earned a Masters in Education and a several teaching credentials at Azusa Pacific, UCLA, and Point Loma Nazarene University.

He was a Physical Education instructor at Newport Harbor High School before accepting a similar position at Thurston.

Soobzokov Named as New Boys Basketball Coach

Rus Soobzokov is the new Laguna Boys Basketball Head coach. He replaces Laguna legend Bret Fleming and will have the Breakers ready for their 89th season. Photo courtesy of Laguna Beach High School Athletics

Laguna graduate (’94) Rus Soobzokov is taking over for legendary head coach Bret Fleming after serving nine seasons as a full-time assistant for the program and 13 years overall for Laguna. Soobzokov played four years for Fleming in the 90’s and went on to play at Irvine Valley College and Cal State Stanislaus. He holds an undergraduate degree in Liberal Studies and a Master’s in Coaching and Athletic Administration.

He takes over for Fleming who has coached the boy’s team for 27 seasons spread over two runs. Fleming has been the longest serving coach in program history first succeeding legend Ed Bowen in 1991 after serving as his assistant for the 1990 team led by Dain Blanton that advanced to the DIVAA title game at the Sports Arena. Fleming first coached ten seasons from 1991 thru 2000 compiling a 137-126 record and one league title sharing the 1999 Pacific Coast league crown with Laguna Hills and University.

Fleming returned in 2006 for 17 seasons going 305-163 for that period. Overall, he went 442-289 in all 27 seasons. The 2021 squad (16-4) the 2018 team (26-4) were two of his most talented teams. Fleming qualified for the playoffs 24 of the 27 seasons with a 23-23 all-time playoff record. Respected as getting the most out of his thin squads that lacked the depth of most of his competition, Breakers were fortunate to win or share 12 league titles in Flemings’ recent stint as head coach including a share of the Sunset Surf League crown in 2001—the most challenging league assignment in the school’s 88-year basketball history.
Soobzokov has a busy 2022 summer planned for the team with tournaments at Edison, Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar already scheduled. When Soobzokov is not coaching he is spending time with his two sons—Alekzander, 9, and Ibraheem, 7.

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