Volleyball standouts, left to right, Jack Loper of San Clemente High, Kaumana Carreira of Tesoro High, and Kai Schmitt of San Clemente High could join forces on the Stanford Men's Volleyball team in a couple years. Carreira and Schmitt have signed letters of intent and Loper, a junior, has verbally committed and is in the application process. Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

CUSD students a motherlode for Stanford volleyball

By Greg Mellen

A hammer, a scrambler, and an emerging hitter — the Stanford men’s volleyball team dug into the Capistrano Unified School District and may have struck the motherlode.

Seniors Kaumana Carreira of Tesoro High and Kai Schmitt of San Clemente have signed letters of intent to play for Stanford in the fall, and junior Jack Loper of San Clemente may be joining them in 2025-26 after he verbally committed to the school.

As a trio, the three are distinctly different athletes. Carreira is an elite Olympic-caliber “stud,” in the words of Schmitt. Meanwhile,Schmitt is ticketed as a libero and defensive specialist, where he has stood out in club volleyball with Balboa Bay. Loper is a classic all-around athlete, who plays football, basketball, and volleyball at San Clemente High.

CUSD boys volleyball’s Kaumana Carreira of Tesoro High, left, and San Clemente High’s Kai Schmitt are high school rivals who will join forces next year as freshmen on the Stanford University Men’s volleyball team.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

If there is a standout among the group it is Carreira, or “Mana” as he is commonly known. A dominant 6-foot-8 middle blocker, Carreira has been an elite player since stepping on the court at Tesoro High.

“He’s the top kid we’ve ever had,” said Tesoro Coach Rich Polk, in his 12th year leading the boys and girls programs as well as a coach with the elite Balboa Bay club teams. “We’ve never had anything like this. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime kid. I’ve coached 30 years and never had anyone like him.”

Ticketed to play the libero position in college, Kai Schmitt of San Clemente High enjoys jousting with the boys at the net in high school.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

Carreira is a two-time member of the Team USA Boys Volleyball U-19 team, which claimed a best-ever fourth place in the 2023 World Championships, and took gold in the 2022 NORCECA Pan American Cup. He also has Olympic and professional volleyball aspirations.

“Overall I’d like to play at the highest levels of the sport,” Carreira says after he got “a taste” of international competition with the U-19 national team. “I think it will take hard work and dedication.”

Closer to home, Carreira won the CIF Southern Section Division II player of the year award as a sophomore and shared the honor in 2023. Although a middle blocker in club play and forecast there in college, Carreira has played outside hitter in high school, where he can be almost unstoppable.

“I’ve been blessed with height since entering high school,” said Carreira, who picked up the sport when he was 13. “It has given me a good opportunity to compete.”

Tesoro High’s Kaumana Carreira slams the ball as San Clemente High’s Marcus Kosolcharoen tries to block. At 6-foot-8, Kaumana Carreira of Tesoro is a dominant presence at the net as a hitter and blocker.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

Like a true hammer, when asked which position he prefers, Carreira said, “I love where I get the most sets. In high school, I get set outside. Sweet, I’ll take it!”

In addition to feeding the ego of an outside hitter, Polk said there are good strategic and coaching reasons for Carriera playing outside in high school competition.

“It’s so we can teach him all the skills,” Polk said. At elite levels, middle hitters often rotate off the floor while others handle serving, passing, and serve receiving.

The all-around skills of San Clemente outside hitter Jack Loper make him a prized recruit in volleyball. He hopes to play for the Stanford Men’s Volleyball team after he graduates.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

Carreira likely had his choice of top volleyball programs for which to play, including defending champion UCLA, which Careirra said was among his top three schools. But few, if any, schools can match the Cardinal when it comes to a combination of high-level athletics and academics.

“It’s such a prestigious school,” Carreira said. “After I visited, it seemed like the perfect place for me.”

Although born and raised in California, Carreira’s family has roots in Hawaii, and those traditions and values have been instilled.

“He came from Hawaii and has those family values and respect for coaches,” Polk said. “He’s one of those guys that you can’t find anything bad to say about. He’s the product of a great family.”

At 6-foot-8, two-time Team USA U-19 player Kaumana Carreira of Tesoro looms large for the Stanford Men’s Volleyball team, with which he plans to play next year.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

Academically, Carriera carries a GPA around 4.7 (4.0 unweighted). Although undecided on a future major, he thinks he may concentrate on economics or business.

At Stanford, Carreira could get early playing time and even start as the team is graduating its three top middle blockers and Carreira has the most national team experience among the incoming and remaining middle blockers in the Cardinal lineup.

“We are excited to see how he improves while wearing Cardinal and White,” Stanford Coach Rich Kosty, in his 18th season, stated. “What stands out about Mana is his ability to be fiercely competitive, while still having a smile on his face. Mana’s teammates gravitate toward him, and we look forward to having him be a part of our culture.”

Teammates and best friends senior Kai Schmitt, center, and junior Jack Loper, right, of San Clemente hope to reunite again on the Stanford Men’s Volleyball team in two years.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

Schmitt is a 6-foot libero and scrappy defender who plays for Balboa Bay Club in the high school off-season. He was San Clemente’s MVP last year and is the team’s two-time Defensive Player of the Year.

“He’s a highly athletic outside hitter for us, but will be a libero in college,” said San Clemente Boys Volleyball Coach Justin DeBlasio, in his second year with the Tritons. “He’s the motor that drives the bus.”

Despite being undersized for an outside hitter, even by high school standards, Schmitt makes up in other ways. DeBlasio credited Schmitt’s jumping ability, fast arm swing, vision, and range.

“He can serve and pass at a high level,” DeBlasio said, noting Schmitt has three serves: a hard jump serve, a floater, and a jump floater.

San Clemente High’s Kai Schmitt leaps to slam the ball as Tesoro High’s Dawson Pedranti, left, and Henry Utterback tries to block match at San Clemente High. Although undersized as an outside hitter, Schmitt’s leaping ability, arm swing, and vision make him a force for the Tritons.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

Of course, Schmitt loves swinging from the outside.

“It’s so fun,” he said.

Like Carreira, he was blown away by having the chance to spend four years on The Farm.

“After visiting the campus, I believed it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” he said.

Schmitt carries a GPA of 4.6 or 4.7, which he said is only second in his family behind older sister Ava. Schmitt says he gets his smarts from his parents and is “blessed” to be a good student for whom schooling has come naturally although he has “taken it seriously.”

Tesoro High’s Kaumana Carreira slams the ball during a match against San Clemente High. Although ticketed as a middle blocker in college and international play, Carreira relishes the opportunity to swing away as an outside hitter.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

He hopes to major in economics and plans on a career in real estate development. He would also like to play professionally and says Stanford has great contacts.

“That would be cool,” he said.

Schmitt is one of those glue players that brings the team together.

In a statement, Kosty called Schmitt “one of the top liberos in this class,” adding, “We are looking forward to witnessing how he will keep improving as a player and how these positive traits will infect his teammates around him.”

San Clemente High junior outside hitter Jack Loper leaps with the ball as Tesoro High tries to block during a match at San Clemente. Loper has verbally committed to play Men’s Volleyball at Stanford.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

Although still a year away and needing to earn acceptance, Loper is well positioned to become a Cardinal. As a 6-foot-5 outside hitter, Loper announced his commitment to Stanford on Instagram. Schmitt, for one, has no doubt his teammate will make the grade.

“Jack is my best friend since we were eight years old,” Schmitt said. “He’s a great player, competitor, and teammate.”

Acceptance to athletic teams at elite schools such as Stanford, which admitted a historic low of just 3.7 percent of applicants, according to the Stanford Daily, is no small feat, requiring brains as well as athletic ability. Schools like Stanford look at grades first, giving other schools such as UCLA and USC an advantage, though they still have high-level athletes to choose from.

Kai Schmitt’s elite passing and digging skills have earned him the San Clemente Boys Volleyball Defensive Player of the Year award in each of the past two years and gained the attention of Stanford, where he will play next year.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

About Schmitt, DeBlasio said his versatility and ability to attack at the net is a bonus.

Until the Capistrano kids make it north, there is business to take care of. Tesoro and San Clemente were ranked Nos. 18 and 19 recently on the American Volleyball Coaches Association USA Today Super 25 rankings, and expect to battle for supremacy in the South Coast League.

San Clemente, after struggling last year, bounced back early and had early bragging rights over Tesoro after beating them in the Tesoro Tournament and their first league showdown.

The Titans, who won the Southern Section Division II title in 2022 and were upset by Upland last year, are out to avenge that loss.

Although they are club teammates and will join forces next year, in league play, it’s all about business for Schmitt and Carreira — not to mention a little one-on-one gamesmanship.

“I’m going to ask my coach to match me up against (Schmitt),” Carreira said before the teams met at San Clemente.

San Clemente junior outside hitter Jack Loper, a three-sport varsity athlete, hopes to play for the Stanford Men’s Volleyball team in two years. He has already verbally committed and is going through the application process at the school.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider
Tesoro High’s Kaumana Carreira digs the ball during a match against San Clemente High. Although he doesn’t get to see much back-row action in the Team USA volleyball, Carreira works on his all-around game in high school play.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider
Tesoro High’s Kaumana Carreira slams the ball during a match against San Clemente High. Carreira has risen to the top of the class in volleyball after he became one of two recruits from the Capistrano Unified School District to be recruited to and sign with the Stanford Men’s Volleyball team.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

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