Once more for the road

Connor Curry's Team Top Gun wore jean shorts and "aviator" style sunglasses.

Jackson Carmack's Team Gold-diggers wore, in Curry's words, "just a bunch of gold."

Zack Martin had Team Avatar all decked out in glittery blue paint.

College volleyball this was not, but rather a last hurrah for several Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar high school graduates before they go their separate ways and enter that collegiate realm.

And, in the end, Curry helped lead Team Top Gun to a victory over Team Gold-Diggers Monday afternoon at the Dover Shores beach volleyball court in Newport Beach. Curry is calling it the inaugural "College Classic" tournament.

Curry came up with the idea as a way to have some fun with some good friends before saying some good-byes. Curry, who graduated from Newport Harbor in June, left Thursday for Penn State, where he will play libero for the Nittany Lions.

"It was a lot of fun," Curry said. "I made a Facebook [page for the event] five days before. It was definitely fun-spirited, but everybody was playing to win, playing for bragging rights."

Curry said the team captains — he and fellow Sailors graduates Carmack and Martin — held a draft a couple days before the tournament.

"We all play fantasy sports and stuff," Carmack said. "We thought that would be a fun way to go about it."

Curry's first pick was a good one, as he scooped up Sailors incoming senior Cody Caldwell, the outside hitter who is a two-time Newport-Mesa Dream Team selection.

Also contributing to the Team Top Gun victory was Will Connelly, the Newport graduate and USC-bound middle blocker, as well as UC Irvine-bound Travis Woloson (Laguna Beach) and Newport grad Scotty Pantoskey.

Curry wasn't surprised that his team could come out on top, although he said the action was fierce on the sand.

"When summer comes along, we mostly play beach volleyball instead of indoor," he said. "Everybody has their beach game going on."

Carmack, the Sailors graduate who is headed to UCLA as a setter, had Newport graduate Grant Bissell and incoming senior Rusty Sary on Team Gold-diggers. Curry's buddies Keats Stanley and Henry Cassiday (from Westlake High and Hawaii, respectively, and both bound for USC) also joined that team.

"It was pretty fun," Carmack said. "A lot of us grew up playing volleyball together and we just thought this would be a good way to end it."

Martin, who also just graduated from Newport Harbor and who plans to continue playing at Santa Barbara City College, had Corona del Mar High graduates Weston Nielsen (UC Santa Barbara) and Joey Booth (USC) on Team Avatar. Nielsen was this year's Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year.

Also on Team Avatar were recent Newport graduates Clay Friend and Chad Seeber, who didn't play volleyball in high school.

The teams played round-robin, with Team Top Gun emerging as the top seed and getting a bye into the final. Team Gold-diggers beat Team Avatar to also advance.

Curry said that the matches were in some ways a battle of attrition. Martin broke his toe in Team Avatar's first match, and Booth came into the tournament with a broken pinky finger.

"But he was ready to play," Curry said.

His hope is that this will become a yearly event. He wants to add teams to the field for next year's event, he said.

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