LAGUNA BEACH — The Laguna Beach High boys' volleyball team is doing many things this year it hasn't in quite some time.
The Breakers are traveling to Hawaii to play in a tournament in a couple of weeks. Their coach, Scott Panaro, just thought it would be kind of cool, so he wanted to help them get there.
The upcoming trip to Hawaii is exciting, but it will be hard to trump what Panaro has experienced twice in March. The 31-year-old is living through his own March Madness.
The second-year Laguna Beach coach has led the Breakers to huge nonleague victories, first a sweep of Newport Harbor at the start of the month, and on Wednesday, a sweep of Corona del Mar.
"That's a dream come true," said Panaro, whose Breakers ran past visiting CdM, 25-20, 25-15, 25-19. "I never would've thought in a million years that would happen."
It doesn't happen often — Laguna Beach sweeping CdM and Newport Harbor in best-of-five matches in the same season. The only other time it did was in 1982, the same year Panaro was born.
Now, you might understand why Panaro called the victory against CdM the biggest as a high school coach. The one prior to that, you guessed it, the 27-25, 26-24, 25-17 sweep at Newport Harbor on March 1, marking Laguna Beach's first sweep of the Sailors in 16 years.
The match against CdM meant more to Panaro. It came against Steve Conti, one of the top high school coaches in the country. There was also some history.
"I've never beaten CdM," Panaro said. "Back as a player, I played at El Toro [before graduating in 2000], we played [the Sea Kings] in league a couple of times and they always crushed us. Both of my varsity years in high school, they knocked me out. When I was coaching at El Toro, I never beat them. Last year [during my debut season with the Breakers], we never beat them. I'm like 1-11 [against the Sea Kings] and it means a lot to have finally gotten them."
The Breakers (5-3) earned their first sweep against CdM (7-7) in 31 years. Yes, they are more experienced this year than CdM, but the Breakers are also a CIF Southern Section Division 2 team and CdM is in Division 1.
The No. 2-ranked school in Division 2 put the pressure on in serve-receive situations and Conti said his Sea Kings, ranked No. 10 in Division 1, didn't withstand it. Conti was well aware that Laguna Beach likes to play at a fast pace, as it serves right as the whistle blows.
Two serves in and the Breakers recorded their first of seven aces. Grifan Fair produced three of the aces, and the setter had the Breakers' offense in sync, collecting 35 assists.
He spread the ball around, finding Weston Barnes (11 kills), Jackson Pries (nine), Noah Blanton and Jack Wyett (seven).
"They did a lot of things that we're trying to get our guys to do, [which] is to go back there and serve tough and put pressure on them in serve-receive," said Conti, whose team also only had 11 digs and four blocks. "We did not hit the spots we wanted to hit. We didn't serve very tough and we served a lot of balls out.
"They were a lot better than us. Even when we kind of looked like we would get ourselves back into the game [with Ryan Moss and Ryan Clayton hammering shots and combining for 23 kills], we'd go back and shoot ourselves in the foot with a missed serve, or an unforced error, and we had some opportunities where some free balls came over that we didn't capitalize."