Through two rounds in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 boys' volleyball playoffs, Huntington Beach High had produced an exciting, if not perfect, performance.
The Oilers had won back-to-back five-setters in the postseason, extending their streak of reaching the quarterfinals to six years in a row.
Then on Saturday, the Oilers welcomed arguably one of the top two teams in CIF into their gym. One match after rallying for a two-set deficit against Westlake on Thursday, the Oilers found themselves in a familiar spot.
After dropping the second set against Corona del Mar, Oilers coach Craig Pazanti turned to his team and said, "We've got them right where we want them."
Huntington Beach rallied to win the next set, but it would not be enough as the visiting Sea Kings came away with a 25-23, 25-21, 23-25, 25-11 victory in Saturday's quarterfinal match.
Corona del Mar (29-4) will host second-seeded Los Angeles Loyola (24-2) in the semifinals on Wednesday. The Sea Kings swept the Cubs 25-19, 25-21, 25-17 last Thursday in the teams' regular-season finale.
Senior Mater Dei transfer Brandon Hicks had a team-high 15 kills and four blocks for the Sea Kings.
"This is a cool thing for me because I'm a transfer," he said of advancing to the semifinals. "We would get knocked out in the first and second round, year by year.
"Playing with these guys and just them knowing how to win, it means a lot to me. It's very special to me. I want to end it the right way with them. Hopefully, we go and win a CIF championship."
Sea Kings coach Steve Conti said a serving adjustment was made after senior Mitchell Bollinger (20 kills) had seven kills and no errors coming out of the back row for the Oilers (27-6) in the third set.
"Rather than jump serving, we kind of served short," Conti said. "We tried to pull him up. Turns out, he didn't pass the ball. The libero [Grant Guinasso] took the ball quite a few times, which got in his path of being able to get that set."
Kevin Kobrine added 11 kills and two blocks, Brandon Browning had nine kills, and Tyler Flood notched eight kills and 2½ blocks.
Patrick Paragas was the one setting them up. He had 48 assists, but he deflected the credit to a great passing night by his back row.
"I love them," Paragas said. "I played with two of them in club, Diego [Perez] and Brandon [Browning].
"It's really fun being able to run my offense. Kevin [Kobrine], we can run unlimited stuff with his jumping abilities because of the passing."
Aidan Knipe had 37 assists and five kills for the Oilers. Sinjin Choi added 11 kills, and Hunter Dickey had six kills.
The seeding for the section's Division 1 boys' volleyball playoffs may have turned out one way, but the result was not agreeable for all.
Some believe that the Back Bay rivals are the top two teams in CIF. Count Pazanti among them, as he figured the seeding may have cost his team a CIF State regionals bid with his team not making the semifinals. The Oilers finished the season ranked fifth in Division 1, but the bracket did not reflect their true ranking because they are in the Sunset League with top-seeded Newport Harbor.
"There's no doubt in my mind that [CdM is] one of the top two teams," he said. "For them to be third and for us to have to drop to the sixth [seed] because of the CIF ruling that we can't be on the same side as Newport, it's a little disheartening to know that we have just played the No. 2 seed as the No. 5 seed."