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Newport Harbor boys’ volleyball falls short in repeat bid at Mira Costa

Newport Harbor's Jake Reed (6) smashes a ball past Mira Costa opposite Julian Seivert.
Newport Harbor’s Jake Reed (6) smashes a ball past Mira Costa opposite Julian Seivert during the CIF Southern Section Division 1 boys’ volleyball championship match at Mira Costa High on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

After more than a month of going undefeated, the Newport Harbor High School boys’ volleyball team finally met its match, and it came at the worst time.

Manhattan Beach Mira Costa defeated Newport Harbor 25-15, 23-25, 25-13, 25-21 at Mira Costa High School’s new Fisher Gym to win the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title.

The Mustangs (13-2) topped the Sailors (15-3) in a revenge match of sorts. They fell to Newport Harbor in the 2019 section final and CIF State Southern California Regional Division I championship match, the last playoffs held before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mira Costa head coach Avery Drost expressed admiration for Newport Harbor’s past success.

The Mira Costa boys' volleyball team gathers for a team picture after it won the CIF Division 1 boys' volleyball title.
The Mira Costa boys’ volleyball team gathers for a team picture after it won the CIF Southern Section Division 1 boys’ volleyball championship match over Newport Harbor.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“I have big-time respect for Newport Harbor,” Drost said. “They define what it is like to have a consistent, disciplined, well-organized program, which is something that is really hard to beat in a championship game.

“When they beat us a couple of years ago, they were handily the better team, and it showed me that there is another level out there. It wasn’t so much getting back at them. It was, ‘How do we ascend to that level?’”

Mira Costa’s depth showed on the score sheet. Senior middle blocker and UC San Diego commit Jim Garrison led the Mustangs with nine kills to go with four blocks and two service aces.

Senior outside hitter and UC Santa Barbara commit Ben Coordt had seven kills and two blocks. George Mason-bound setter Troy McDonald led the Mustangs in assists with 14 and added an ace.

Newport Harbor senior outside hitter Brendan Read led all players with 14 kills and three service aces. Brother Jake Read added seven kills, while junior middle blocker James Eadie had six kills and five blocks. Cole McKibbin racked up 30 assists.

Even after back-to-back losses in mid-April to Los Angeles Loyola (which the Sailors defeated to reach the finals) and rival Corona del Mar, Eadie had confidence Newport Harbor could make the final, but he wished his team had started the final with more consistency.

Newport Harbor's Brendan Read (1) hits a ball past Mira Costa's Julian Seivert during the CIF Division 1 final.
Brendan Read of Newport Harbor (1) hits a ball past Mira Costa’s Julian Seivert for a point.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“I believed we could make it here,” Eadie said. “I believed in our team all year. They started every set sharp, and we started badly. They would get off to a lead, and we just couldn’t climb back in.”

Newport Harbor kept it close early in the first set, but after two diving digs by senior setter Cole Collins, the momentum swung in Mira Costa’s direction for a 25-15 set victory.

In set two, the Sailors recovered. They built a 12-8 lead, thanks to two more blocks by Eadie and aces by Brendan and Jake Read. Mira Costa made it close, but a McKibbin block and then an error by the Mustangs gave Newport Harbor the 25-23 win.

Mira Costa won the third set easily 25-13, behind Garrison’s domination at the net.

Cole McKibbin (2) and James Eadie (26) block a kill by a Mira Costa outside hitter during the CIF Division 1 final.
Cole McKibbin (2) and James Eadie (26) block a kill by a Mira Costa outside hitter during the CIF Division 1 final.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“That second set was a hard loss for us,” Garrison said. “But coming back was a good mental test. I was very nervous. This was our biggest crowd all year. I wanted to play well in front of my friends and family, and I did what I wanted to do.”

In the fourth set, Mira Costa jumped ahead 7-1. Newport Harbor brought it within three points, thanks to two consecutive digs from Luca Curci at the libero position, but the Sailors fell on a match-point kill by Coordt.

Newport Harbor head coach Eric Vallely declined to comment after the match.

Brackets for the CIF State Southern California Regional boys’ volleyball playoffs will be released on Sunday.

Newport Harbor's Rees Clasen (8) blocks a kill attempt by Mira Costa's Kalani Rusher (6).
Newport Harbor’s Rees Clasen (8) blocks a kill attempt by Mira Costa’s Kalani Rusher (6).
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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