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Corona del Mar High’s boys’ volleyball ousted by defending champion Mira Costa

Corona del Mar's Jake Olson (10) spikes past Mira Costa's Mick Bakos (5) on Thursday.
Corona del Mar’s Jake Olson (10) spikes past Mira Costa’s Mick Bakos (5) in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs on Thursday.
(James Carbone)

It is tough to keep a good team down for long, especially a proven champion.

The Corona del Mar High School boys’ volleyball team found that out on Thursday, as the Sea Kings fell to Manhattan Beach Mira Costa 22-25, 25-19, 25-20, 32-30 in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

“This could have been the last game of the year,” Mira Costa outside hitter Mick Bakos said. “We honestly just thought about that. For me, because I’m a senior, this could have been the last game ever, so we wanted to leave it all out there and finally clicked and got that groove going.”

During the regular season, the Sea Kings (15-10) earned a pair of wins over Mira Costa, the reigning Division 1 champion. Those victories came early — in the Best of the West Tournament and in a nonleague match at home on March 14 — but CdM was unable to complete the trifecta.

Corona del Mar's George Bruening (5) scores against Mira Costa on Thursday.
Corona del Mar’s George Bruening (5) scores against Mira Costa in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs on Thursday.
(James Carbone)

Bakos, a Pepperdine commit, had a match-high 18 kills to go with 1½ blocks for the Mustangs (19-9). Victor Loiola contributed 12 kills and 2½ blocks.

The left-side hitting duo was instrumental for Mira Costa in the dramatic fourth set, combining for 13 kills and 2½ blocks to help their team pull through. Kasra Alipour and Loiola teamed up for the block that clinched the contest.

“Blocking hasn’t been our strength,” Mira Costa coach Avery Drost said. “I told the team in the huddle just now, there were so many sloppy transition plays for us in that fourth set, especially, where we kind of had an opportunity to do something, get some breathing room or end the game, and we just misfired so many times in transition.

“We’re not going to get away with that very often, but fortunately, the guys sided out really tough down the stretch. I think they sided out 10 times in a row in the fourth set, so that was clutch.”

Corona del Mar's Sterling Foley (11) taps the ball past Mira Costa's Stone Seligson (6).
Corona del Mar’s Sterling Foley (11) taps the ball past Mira Costa’s Stone Seligson (6) in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 first-round match on Thursday.
(James Carbone)

Led by Sterling Foley’s four kills and 1½ blocks in the first set, the Sea Kings took the early lead in claiming Game 1.

Junior middle blocker Murphy Glasgow’s activity at the net, along with the precision setting of Jason Walmer, gave the Mustangs a spark in Game 2.

Mira Costa then opened a big lead of 15-6 in the third set. The Mustangs went on to win the set comfortably, and it looked as though they had withstood the Sea Kings’ greatest punch.

Just points into the fourth set, CdM coach Katey Thompson swapped out setters, turning the offense over to Ryan Gant. The Sea Kings’ offense — once stagnant — came to life, climbing out of a 13-8 hole to give themselves several chances to push the Mustangs to a decisive fifth set.

Mira Costa's Mick Bakos (5) and Corona del Mar's Jordan Cortens (3) joust at the net.
Mira Costa’s Mick Bakos (5) and Corona del Mar’s Jordan Cortens (3) joust for the ball in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 first-round match on Thursday.
(James Carbone)

Senior opposite Jake Olson had eight of his team-leading 15 kills in the fourth set. Foley, who finished with 14 kills on the night, had five kills and 1½ blocks in the set. Gant had 12 assists, one kill and a block assist after entering the fray.

“I guess having a new face in there helped us, and Gant absolutely played amazing, so I’m super proud of him,” Olson said of Gant’s contributions off the bench. “He’s a clutch player, especially in practice. I remember, if he was the last person to serve, he would never miss a serve. He’s going to be a really good up-and-coming player. I’m super proud of him. He really stepped up.”

George Bruening had seven kills and three blocks, Ethan Pliha also had seven kills, and Jordan Cortens produced 18 assists and four kills for CdM.

Ranked in the top five of the section’s Division 1 and 2 combined poll throughout most of the season, CdM dropped from No. 5 to No. 10 in the final poll following a three-match losing streak to conclude the regular season.

“As we go on, teams are going to get better and they’re going to see what we’re doing, and if we don’t bring it every single time, then it’s not going to go our way,” Thompson said. “We still have to show up and prove ourselves every single time we step on the court.”

Corona del Mar's Kaden Kavanaugh (13) and Ethan Pliha (7) block a spike attempt by Mira Costa's Murphy Glasgow (99).
Corona del Mar’s Kaden Kavanaugh (13) and Ethan Pliha (7) block a spike attempt by Mira Costa’s Murphy Glasgow (99) on Thursday.
(James Carbone)

Also in the CIF Southern Section boys’ volleyball playoffs:

San Clemente 3, Marina 1: Derek McMullin had a team-high 10 kills for the Vikings, who fell at the hands of the Tritons 25-21, 22-25, 25-20, 25-17 on Thursday in the first round of the Division 2 playoffs.

Dyllan Nguyen had 35 assists and four aces for Marina (15-12). Samuel Sims and Lucas Heishman added seven kills apiece.

Edison 3, Murrieta Valley 1: The visiting Chargers defeated the Southwestern League-champion Nighthawks 25-13, 22-25, 25-19, 25-12 on Thursday in the first round of the Division 3 playoffs.

Edison (15-11) remains on the road to face South Pasadena (21-13) on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Pacifica Christian Orange County 3, La Cañada Flintridge Prep 0: The Tritons began their playoff run with a 26-24, 28-26, 25-21 sweep of the Wolves on Thursday in a Division 4 first-round match on the road.

Pacifica Christian (19-9) plays host to Palm Desert Xavier Prep (18-6) in the second round Saturday at 11 a.m.

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