Corona del Mar had its first Southern Section boys’ volleyball championship since 1989 within its grasp, but then it all slipped away.
Actually, second-seeded Santa Ynez ripped it away. The Pirates claimed their third consecutive Division III championship by rallying to win, 11-15, 11-15, 15-11, 15-13, 15-13, in the final Saturday at Cypress College.
Unseeded Corona del Mar (14-5) gave Santa Ynez (20-1) all it could handle. The Sea Kings capitalized on the Pirates’ mistakes to win the first and second games.
And even after Santa Ynez came roaring back to win the third and fourth games before taking a commanding 13-6 lead in the fifth game, Corona del Mar made one last gasp to score seven consecutive points to tie it, 13-13.
“That was scary,” said Santa Ynez senior Michael Wall, who had 39 kills.
But Corona del Mar’s Blair Hoppe, who had a team-high 37 kills, missed a spike wide for a Santa Ynez point, then Santa Ynez’s Trace Agin (19 kills, three blocks) blocked another Hoppe spike attempt to end the 3-hour 15-minute match.
It was the first five-game match of the season for Santa Ynez, which lost its only match this season to Division I San Clemente.
“We came in way too overconfident,” said Wall, who will play at Brigham Young next season. “We were tense early and we needed to settle down.”
So what were the Santa Ynez players thinking after losing the first two games?
“I don’t think I can repeat that for the papers,” Wall said.
Although Santa Ynez got into its rhythm in the third game, Hoppe put Corona del Mar into position to win, pulling the Sea Kings ahead, 11-10, with a kill from the left side.
But then Wall spiked from the middle for a side out, then he used his jump serve to help the Pirates score five consecutive points to close out the game, 15-11.
Corona del Mar took a 7-0 lead in the fourth game with Tim Andrews (24 kills, 16 digs), Dennis Alshuler (12 kills, seven blocks) and setter Brady Beauchamp (87 assists) teaming with Hoppe to keep Santa Ynez off balance.
“I called a time out right there and everyone seemed to be sniping and blaming each other,” Santa Ynez Coach Chip Fenenga said. “We just reminded them that they had been together for four years.
“All of a sudden, it was ‘I’ll go get that ball and you take care of the block there. . .’ Everyone began working together and we played a lot better from there.”
Larry Witt, who had 24 kills, helped Santa Ynez win nine of the last 11 points in the fourth game, which took 51 minutes.
Although Corona del Mar fell behind, 6-0, and trailed by as many as seven points in the fifth game, the Sea Kings never quit. Greg Burden, who had six kills and 29 digs, typified the scrappy defense Corona del Mar played to claw its way back into the final game.
“We showed the fight that brought us here to this match,” Corona del Mar Coach Steve Conti said. “It just wasn’t enough to get a championship. They just executed a little bit better than us.”