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CdM boys’ volleyball swept out of regional playoffs by Loyola

Corona del Mar's Vanis Buckholz hits against Newport Harbor's James Eadie during a Surf League boys' volleyball match.
Corona del Mar’s Vanis Buckholz hits against Newport Harbor’s James Eadie during a Surf League boys’ volleyball match on Tuesday, April 20.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The No. 7-seeded Corona del Mar High School boys’ volleyball team came in as the underdog against No. 6-seeded Los Angeles Loyola in the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I semifinals.

Despite being the lowest-seeded team in the bracket, Corona del Mar brought the intensity in a battle at the net in their season-ending 25-19, 25-19, 25-22 loss.

Although the Sea Kings fell short of their goal of winning section and state regional titles, CdM coach Steve Conti was proud that his team competed against a gritty Loyola team.

“The biggest thing is that we competed,” Conti said. “We just wanted the kids to go out there and compete and see where the chips fall.”

Senior opposite Luke Chandler, who had six kills and two blocks, felt that making it as far as the semifinals in both the section and state playoffs was an accomplishment for a team with eight seniors.

“It was an awesome season and all of us are one-year varsity players, so many seniors,” Chandler said. “Making it this far, it just shows us that we’re a consistent team, and we’re in the best division in probably the country, honestly.”

Senior middle blocker Vanis Buckholz led the Sea Kings with seven kills and three blocks, while the other senior middle blocker Buddy Cohen had six kills and three blocks.

As a team, the Sea Kings blocked 11 Loyola kill attempts. It was not enough as Loyola’s front row, made up of freshman Sean Kelly, junior Ryan Vena and senior Cooper Robertson found open pockets within the Sea Kings defense.

With the first two sets marred by stoppages in play, Corona del Mar managed to go on offensive runs facilitated through senior setter Grant Dvorak and junior setter Jordan Cortens. The setters combined for 19 assists.

“We had a couple of sprints in a few of those sets, but multiple unforced errors in a row was probably the difference,” Conti said.

If there was a set that Corona del Mar was going to begin their comeback bid, then it was going to be the third set.

After falling behind 4-0 and being down by as many as six points, Corona del Mar took care of the ball on their side of the net with key solo blocks and kills by Chandler, which energized the team.

“I just fired the guys up, and after we got a couple blocks, we felt like the game had just started,” Chandler said. “I didn’t want to go home and I wanted to keep playing.”

Corona del Mar (10-4) briefly led 17-16. However, Loyola regained control of the set and saw out a 25-22 match-clinching set victory.

As another generation of exceptional volleyball players graduate from the CdM program, sophomore outside hitter George Bruening and freshman outside hitter Sterling Foley will be leading the next wave of talent heading into next season.

Loyola (15-1) faces No.1-seeded Manhattan Beach Mira Costa in the regional final on Saturday.

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