Huntington Beach High and Los Angeles Loyola have to stop meeting like this.
Perhaps for Loyola's sake, anyway.
For the fourth time in four major championship matches in the past 12 months, Huntington has defeated Loyola. The run started when the Oilers beat the Cubs in the 2013 CIF Southern Section Division 1 title match. It continued a week after that section win, when they turned back the Cubs in the CIF Southern California Regional Division 1 final and again last week, when they took their second consecutive Southern Section crown by knocking off their newest rival.
Saturday at Cerritos College, the teams met a fourth time and just as the three previous meetings had gone, this one, too, went to the Oilers.
Huntington won its second CIF Southern California Regional Division I championship by defeating Loyola, 25-16, 25-20, 25-20, earning the sweep in just one hour.
The win completed an incredible, 40-0 season that began with the Oilers ending the season where they started it: at No. 1.
It also sent the Oilers into the off-season riding a 64-game win streak.
"I'm glad we're done," Huntington Coach Craig Pazanti said of the season-ending title. "We wanted to finish things off right."
And the Oilers did.
Huntington was able to break away from Loyola (26-5) throughout to follow up last week's four-set win against the Cubs.
Pazanti said his team was as motivated Saturday as it had been for last week's CIF Southern Section final.
"Our main goal all season was to go undefeated," he said.
Huntington took that first step by overcoming a 12-11 deficit in the opening set. A kill by junior outside hitter TJ DeFalco followed by a kill at the net by senior middle blocker and team co-captain Drake Evans, put the Oilers in the lead for good. They wrapped up a 25-16 set win on a double-block at the net by DeFalco and senior middle blocker Ryan Morrissey.
A 4-0 run in the second set put Huntington up, 15-9. A put-back shot by Evans, block from the right side by senior outside hitter Andrew Pearson, and kill down the middle by DeFalco, keyed the run. Loyola committed six service errors in the set, the last of which sewed up a 25-20 win for the Oilers.
The score was tied on 13 occasions in the third set, the last time at 18-18 on a kill down the right side by Pearson. When DeFalco scored from the left side, it put Huntington ahead to stay, and a powerful shot down the middle by Morrissey gave the Oilers a 20-18 lead. It was still a two-point game (22-20) on a shot by Cubs' senior middle blocker Riley Moore, but a kill by senior outside hitter Brenden Sander, followed by a soft tap for a point by DeFalco, put the Oilers at match point.
They got it when DeFalco sent a drop shot down the middle.
For the second week in a row, DeFalco led all players in kills with 17. Last week, he had 21 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 final. Sander had 14 kills and Pearson nine kills. DeFalco and junior libero Blake Diamond both had eight digs, and junior setter Josh Tuaniga had 41 assists.
Senior outside hitter Hayden Boehle led Loyola with 13 kills.
"As a senior, this is the best possible way to go out," said Sander, a co-captain and three-year varsity player. "This is the best group of guys to have backing you up, too."
As for that 64-match win streak?
"Never thought it possible," Sander, who will attend and play next year at BYU, continued. "I came into a great program and to finish this year 40-0, and win 64-straight, is just amazing. Our goal was to go undefeated this year, and we accomplished that."
Pazanti clutched Huntington's second CIF championship plaque in a week, and fourth in a year. This trophy was a culmination of an indelible two-year streak.
"Everyone kept telling me, how are you going to top last year?" he said. "I told them I thought we would be better. I told them that we had enough talent coming back and if some of the other smaller pieces came through, we would be better."
Huntington ended last year ranked first in the nation. The Oilers probably will retain that ranking again.
When asked if his team was the best in the country, Pazanti didn't hesitate with his response.
"Without a doubt," he said, twice. "[Loyola] is the second-best team. What makes this team the best is that it's not just the top guys, but guys 10 through 15, who give us that competitiveness.
"We hit all our goals. Going 40-0, winning CIF and regional. The only thing we didn't do was win all our sets, but we only dropped six all year. That's the only thing we didn't do."
In the six CIF Southern California Regional Division 1 title matches played since the tournament started in 2009, Loyola has appeared in five of those matches. The Cubs won regional titles in 2009, 2010 and 2012.
Huntington was playing in its second regional final.
In the other two CIF Southern California Regionals finals Saturday at Cerritos College, Laguna Beach (CIF Southern Section Division 2 runner-up) defeated Saddleback Valley Christian (CIF Southern Section Division 5 champion), 3-1, to win the Division III title, and Corona del Mar (CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinalist) took the Division II title by beating Esperanza (CIF Southern Section Division 2 champion) in five sets.