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Huntington Beach boys’ volleyball extends season with five-set win over La Costa Canyon

Huntington Beach team captain Trent Douphner kills the ball between two Carlsbad La Costa Canyon defenders.
Huntington Beach team captain Trent Douphner kills the ball between two Carlsbad La Costa Canyon defenders during the first round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division II boys’ volleyball playoffs on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

It was with a giant collective sigh of relief between players and fans as the Huntington Beach High School boys’ volleyball team walked off its home court with a narrow win Tuesday.

Huntington Beach (15-5) defeated Carlsbad La Costa Canyon (10-8) in five sets 28-26, 25-22, 22-25, 21-25, 15-5 in the first round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division II playoffs.

Cayman LaFontaine had a match-high 21 kills and three service aces for the Oilers, while Liam Phinizy added 10 kills and Camden Schulte ended with seven kills. La Costa Canyon was led by Logan Cox with 10 kills.

“We had to adjust our bodies and minds to get through the fifth set,” Huntington Beach head coach Craig Pazanti said. “We were in the opposite situation against Santa Barbara last week, so we had to settle in.”

The Oilers never found a rhythm after their rocky first set. They trailed for most of the first set, but they were able to come back with the help of five consecutive points earned by LaFontaine to end the set.

Huntington Beach’s struggles continued deeper into the match. The Oilers dropped the third and fourth sets after a convincing second-set win.

“We were just in our heads and our passing wasn’t there,” Phinizy said. “We were thinking about the game too much instead of letting it come to us.”

The Oilers finished the match with a dominant fifth set to keep their season alive and move on to the regional semifinals. Huntington Beach will return Thursday to Santa Barbara, where it fell to the Dons (14-0) in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 final on Saturday.

Huntington's Cayman LaFontaine (2) kills the ball cross-court against La Costa Canyon on Tuesday.
Huntington’s Cayman LaFontaine (2) kills the ball cross-court during the first round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division II boys’ volleyball playoffs against La Costa Canyon on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“Everyone put in all their effort in the final set,” LaFontaine said. “The energy was right and we took advantage of the momentum to cap off the night with a win.”

The season the Oilers have had was filled with uncertainty, but the team was just happy to play.

“It was an atypical season, but in general, these guys lost out last year so we just wanted to get on the floor,” Pazanti said. “We came up short and some guys were beat up, but we can just say that we’re overall happy that we got to finish the season.”

Huntington Beach waited patiently to know whether or not its season would be on for 2021.

“We were prepping every day to make sure we were ready,” LaFontaine said. “We all worked on our game seven days a week.”

The Oilers finally received the news that they would be playing in late January. The locker room was ecstatic, especially the seniors who would get to play in their final year of school. The team quickly got together and started to create a bond, something that had been lacking prior to the news.

Huntington's Jack Hopkins digs a hard-hit ball against Carlsbad La Costa Canyon on Tuesday.
Huntington’s Jack Hopkins digs a hard-hit ball during the first round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division II boys’ volleyball playoffs against Carlsbad La Costa Canyon on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“We started to hang out all together because a lot of the guys here don’t hang out with each other normally,” LaFontaine said. “It created the chemistry that we have today.”

There were also no COVID-19 cases throughout the season for the team, which was a big positive in creating some sort of consistency. As the season approached, the team felt ready to compete.

The Oilers finished with a strong regular season, but had a 2-4 record in Surf League play. Nonetheless, the Oilers were able to dominate in the Division 2 playoffs and earn a trip to the championship match.

“We came this far despite such a weird season,” Phinizy said. “I’m proud of what we were able to do.”

The Oilers came close to winning the championship match. They fell 25-21, 25-18, 29-31, 21-25, 15-9 to top-seeded Santa Barbara.

“It was a tough season, but we rallied the whole way,” Pazanti said.

Huntington's Camden Schulte (30) and Michael Rini (6) block a kill attempt against Carlsbad La Costa Canyon on Tuesday.
Huntington’s Camden Schulte (30) and Michael Rini (6) block a kill attempt during the first round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division II boys’ volleyball playoffs against Carlsbad La Costa Canyon on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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