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PREP NOTES / ROB FERNAS : Mira Costa Volleyball Team (22-0) Lays Claim to Being the Best Ever

When comparing great high school volleyball teams, you have to rank the 1978 Santa Barbara High squad near the top.

Led by the incomparable Karch Kiraly, who helped the United States to two Olympic gold medals, the Dons were unbeaten and captured the Southern Section title with a 15-11, 15-8, 15-6 victory over Laguna Beach. They lost only three games within a match all season.

But if Santa Barbara’s record was the best before 1990, it isn’t anymore.

Mira Costa put the finishing touches on a 22-0 season and staked its claim to the title of “best team ever” by dominating Edison of Huntington Beach, 15-6, 15-12, 15-11, Saturday night in the 4-A Division final at Marina High in Huntington Beach.

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Santa Barbara lost three games but Mira Costa lost only two, both in a five-game victory at Edison early in the year. The Mustangs finished with an astounding game record of 77-2. They were 66-2 in their 22 non-league, Ocean League and playoff matches and 11-0 in tournament games.

“Karch congratulated us for that,” said Mira Costa Coach Mike Cook, who ran into Kiraly on Sunday at the Venice Beach Open. “It was very difficult for us to do, with the momentum shifts there are in volleyball.”

Things weren’t nearly as difficult for Kiraly and teammate Brent Frohoff, a Mira Costa graduate, at Venice Beach. They beat Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos in the tournament final, 15-2.

Mira Costa outside hitter David Swatik had perhaps the best match of his prep career Saturday against Edison. The UCLA-bound senior led the Mustangs with 15 kills, 10 service points and nine digs and was second on the team with seven blocks.

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His performance made up for last year, when Swatik played poorly in Mira Costa’s four-game loss to Corona del Mar in the 4-A final at Marina.

“As a junior, he was intimidated by the nature of the game,” Cook said. “He really wanted to have a good one for his high school farewell. He was a little bit, and maybe quite a bit, above the rest of my team.”

That’s saying a lot, because Mira Costa played a strong all-around match. But Swatik, a 6-foot-4 left-hander, was clearly the most dominant player on the court. His hits were almost unstoppable.

“David has mastered the offensive game,” Cook said. “He loves to hit. And I think other teams get bothered by left-handers. You’ve got to make sure you block more radically to the right side than normal. It helps.”

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When the Mustangs won their only previous Southern Section title, in 1984, their top hitter was left-handed Rick Arce.

Brian Thurston, the unsung hero of Mira Costa’s formidable lineup, spiked the winning point and played a key role in Saturday’s victory.

“A big key was our passing game, and Brian was passing on a dime,” Cook said. “He made our offense roll.”

Thurston also contributed seven kills, five blocks and four digs.

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He is the only senior in the Mustangs’ starting lineup who has not signed with a major college. Swatik, middle blockers Pat Ivie and Mike Ashenfelter (USC) and setter Canyon Ceman (Stanford) are all headed to Western Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn. schools. The sixth starter, junior outside hitter Mark Shoptaw, is expected to be heavily recruited next year.

Several longtime volleyball observers said the crowd for Saturday’s match between Mira Costa and Edison, which both have loyal followings, may have been the largest in Southern Section championship history.

One thing’s for sure: The crowd was too large for the Marina High gym.

By the time the 4-A title match started, fans had squeezed into every available seating space, including the aisles. This followed a chaotic scene outside the gym, where several hundred fans were forced to wait until the 3-A match between Arcadia and Brentwood was over.

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The reason? The gym, with a capacity of 2,200, was already full.

“It was an unusual situation,” said Dennis Creighton, a Marina coach who served as manager of the event. “We never had a crowd like that before.”

Part of the problem was that the 3-A match, won by Arcadia in five games, lasted 2 1/2 hours and cut into the scheduled 7:30 p.m. starting time of the 4-A match, which didn’t get under way until nearly 9.

Fortunately, enough people left after the 3-A match to allow those who were waiting outside to enter the gym for the 4-A match.

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But, as Cook pointed out: “You can’t help but think some people said, ‘To heck with this,’ and left.”

Cook, a member of the Southern Section volleyball advisory board, said the issue of moving the championships to another site was brought up Tuesday. Cal State Dominguez Hills was one of the sites recommended.

Rolling Hills pitcher-second baseman Kirt Kishita, who was recently named Bay League Most Valuable Player, finished 11 of his 14 pitching starts this season on the way to a 9-5 record. The junior also had two saves, meaning that he had a hand in all but two victories for the Titans (13-12).

The area’s other league MVPs in baseball were:

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Culver City pitcher Mauricio Estavil (Ocean), El Segundo pitcher-first baseman Tate Seefried (Camino Real), Miraleste pitcher-outfielder Jason Mavar and Mary Star pitcher-infielder Miguel Galaz (Santa Fe), and Banning pitcher Mike Busby (Pacific).

West Torrance shortstop Brigit Tapp, who helped the Warriors tie for the Ocean League title and reach the second round of the Southern Section 3-A playoffs, has received a scholarship to play softball for Cal State Long Beach.

Tapp batted .350 and led the Warriors in stolen bases.

“I’ve never coached a girl who has worked so hard,” West Coach Jim Carrico said.

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