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CdM boys’ volleyball rallies past Huntington Beach to extend season

Corona del Mar's Sterling Foley hits off the block of Huntington Beach's Colin Choi, left, and Logan Hutnick (11) on Tuesday.
Corona del Mar’s Sterling Foley hits off the block of Huntington Beach’s Colin Choi, left, and Logan Hutnick (11) during the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs at Huntington Beach High on Tuesday.
(Eric Licas)
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The boys’ volleyball teams for Corona del Mar and Huntington Beach high schools delivered a trilogy worthy of top division competition this season, all three matches going to five sets between the Surf League rivals.

The fifth-seeded Sea Kings rode the final wave of momentum to a 24-26, 25-21, 20-25, 25-21, 15-7 victory over the fourth-seeded Oilers on Tuesday in a CIF State Southern California Regional Division I opener at Huntington Beach High.

Senior outside hitter Sterling Foley had 27 kills, eight digs and two blocks to lead CdM (22-5), which will travel to top-seeded Los Angeles Loyola (31-1) for a regional semifinal match on Thursday.

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Corona del Mar's Reid McMullen hits past Huntington Beach's Logan Hutnick on Tuesday.
Corona del Mar’s Reid McMullen hits past Huntington Beach’s Logan Hutnick during the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs on Tuesday.
(Eric Licas)

The USC-bound outside hitter gushed over the performance of freshman middle blocker Daniel Booker, who had 18 kills and five blocks in the match. Booker teamed up with senior outside hitter Everett Welton and senior setter Ryan Gant on back-to-back blocks in the fifth set to stake CdM to a 13-6 lead in the decisive set.

“He had 18 kills on 29 attempts,” Foley said of Booker, who had a .552 hitting percentage. “He had a game. Blocking, he had a game. He was one of the main parts of us building off that energy in the third, fourth and fifth sets.”

Corona del Mar did all the little things that loomed large in an abbreviated final set. Its blockers bothered the Oilers, and back-row defenders were diving all over the floor. Welton laid out for a dig on a sharply-struck ball from Huntington Beach senior opposite Aidan Dubno, controlling the pass in a point that ended with a Booker kill from the middle.

Huntington Beach's Nick Ganier hits against Corona del Mar's Sterling Foley (11) and Daniel Booker (12) on Tuesday.
Huntington Beach’s Nick Ganier hits against Corona del Mar’s Sterling Foley (11) and Daniel Booker (12) during the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs at Huntington Beach High on Tuesday.
(Eric Licas)

“I’m not really thinking about my season ending during the game,” Welton said of his mentality within the fifth set. “I’m more thinking about just put my heart out there, try my best and see what happens.”

Welton had 12 kills, 10 digs and one block. Senior middle blocker Reid McMullen added seven kills and two blocks. Ryan Gant had 44 assists, two kills and two blocks, sophomore opposite Brady Gant contributed three kills and two blocks, and sophomore defensive specialist Drake Foley chipped in with nine digs. Junior libero Brogan Glenn had five digs.

“I think that fifth set, we came out with the right mindset of, ‘We’re going to win this game,’” CdM coach Katey Thompson said. “Everybody put everything out there. We were 100% in, committed to winning. Whether we were going to win or whether we were going to lose, that’s the maximum effort we wanted.”

Dubno produced 20 kills and 14 digs for Huntington Beach (28-7). Long Beach State-bound setter Jake Pazanti had 57 assists, 10 digs and nine kills. Junior middle blocker Nick Ganier had 14 kills, freshman middle blocker Logan Hutnick added 13 kills, and sophomore outside hitter Colin Choi added a dozen kills to go with 14 digs. Junior libero Aiden Atencio also had 16 digs defensively.

Huntington Beach's Logan Hutnick angles the ball away from Corona del Mar blockers on Tuesday.
Huntington Beach’s Logan Hutnick angles the ball away from Corona del Mar blockers during the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs at Huntington Beach High on Tuesday.
(Eric Licas)

Neither team had played a match since pool play had ended for the Southern Section’s Division 1 playoffs on May 4, though Huntington Beach was arguably playing its best volleyball of the season at that point. The Oilers are the only team to have gone to five sets with Loyola. The Cubs’ lone loss came to Mater Dei in a best-of-three match in a tournament in San Diego.

“We’ve lived and died with our middle and our opposite all year long,” Huntington Beach coach Craig Pazanti said. “Our outside hitters have done a great job passing the ball and keeping us in system to do that, and we stopped passing the ball. I don’t know that they were serving any tougher. I just think we’ve had a couple mental lapses like that with our passing in a couple matches.”

The Surf League received its flowers this season, its four teams — including Edison and Newport Harbor — qualifying for the elite, eight-team bracket in the Division 1 playoffs.

Huntington Beach's Colin Choi keeps a rally alive against Corona del Mar on Tuesday.
(Eric Licas)

Loyola swept Manhattan Beach Mira Costa 25-21, 25-22 25-21 in the final in the top division. The CIF finals had featured at least one of CdM or Newport Harbor every year in which championships were held since 2015. No playoffs occurred in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“After the Mira Costa match [in the section playoffs], we were on the sidewalk waiting for our bus,” Thompson recalled. “And Reid McMullen goes, ‘Hey, we can still win state, right? Absolutely, and that was the mindset moving forward.”

Huntington Beach's Jake Pazanti (26) sends a spike past Corona del Mar's Reid McMullen on Tuesday.
Huntington Beach’s Jake Pazanti (26) sends a spike past Corona del Mar’s Reid McMullen during the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs at Huntington Beach High on Tuesday.
(Eric Licas)

Also in the CIF State Southern California Regional boys’ volleyball playoffs:

San Diego Torrey Pines 3, Newport Harbor 0: The sixth-seeded Sailors fell short 25-23, 28-26, 25-23 in a tightly-contested Division I opener on Tuesday on the road.

Senior outside hitter Riggs Guy had a dozen kills to pace Newport Harbor (27-9), followed by junior middle blocker Jack Berry with eight kills. Senior setter Grayson Springborn distributed 34 assists.

Los Angeles Loyola 3, Edison 0: The top-seeded Cubs swept the visiting Chargers 25-22, 25-8, 25-19 on Tuesday to kick off the Division I regional bracket.

Edison ends its season at 17-15 overall.

Valencia West Ranch 3, Sage Hill 1: Junior outside hitter Jackson Cryst had 28 kills, 11 digs and seven blocks, but the seventh-seeded Lightning lost 25-14, 19-25, 25-17, 25-18 on Tuesday in the Division III playoffs at West Ranch.

Sophomore outside hitter Connor Gapp added seven kills for Sage Hill (22-9), which was the Division 5 champion in the Southern Section. Senior setter Brayden Brien dished out 35 assists, and sophomore libero Dylan Han had 10 digs.

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