After watching more than 12 hours of nearly nonstop volleyball, Huntington Beach High School Coach Rocky Ciarelli finally revealed the reason his team won the Orange County Championships for the second consecutive year.
"I'm glad I've got Matt Taylor," Ciarelli said. "You take him away, and we're an ordinary team."
Taylor was named the tournament's most valuable player after recording 16 kills in a 15-10, 15-9 victory over second-seeded Woodbridge in the championship match at Estancia.
Without Taylor, a 6-foot-4 outside hitter, the Oilers likely wouldn't have reached the finals.
The Oilers were in deep trouble in the semifinals, trailing top-seeded Capistrano Valley, 14-8. But Taylor had two aces, a kill and a block to spark an 8-0 run that gave the Oilers the victory. Huntington Beach twice fought off match point.
"Matt's jump serving led us," Ciarelli said. "When he gets going, he can put a lot of speed on it."
Taylor had 10 kills in the semifinal match.
Huntington Beach, ranked fourth in the county, finished 10-1 in the 20-team, pool-play tournament.
The Oilers' only loss was to Laguna Beach in pool play. They avenged that with a 15-8 victory in the quarterfinals.
"Laguna gave us a lot of trouble," Taylor said. "We were kind of worn out after playing them. These all-day tournaments take a lot out of you."
Taylor mustered enough energy to pound 10 kills in the first game against Woodbridge. The Oilers pulled away from a 7-7 tie with an 8-3 run.
Woodbridge built a 7-3 lead in the second game, but committed three hitting errors and two net violations during a 10-0 Huntington Beach streak that sealed the victory.
Winning the championship last year was the beginning of the end for Huntington Beach. The Oilers were top-ranked in the preseason, but faded just after the tournament when Taylor was lost with a hernia injury.
"Hopefully we're not peaking early again this year," Ciarelli said.
Huntington Beach's Andy Kijewski added 10 kills in the final. Nate Haugh had nine kills and Todd Beebe and Krister Ollson added eight apiece for Woodbridge.
Joining Taylor on the all-tournament team were Kijewski, Beebe, Jason Galleener (Esperanza), Brian Godshaw (Capistrano Valley), Joe McCarthy (Edison) and Russell Gan (Newport Harbor).