High school boys’ volleyball teams in the area put on a scintillating show last season.
Fans of the sport were treated to four Battle of the Bay matches, including the final of the Orange County Championships, the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs and the CIF State Southern California Division I regional tournament.
Newport Harbor (13-0) nearly ran the table, with its only two losses coming in the section and regional title matches. Apart from outside hitter Cole Pender (UCLA) and middle blocker Ethan Talley (Ohio State), the Sailors returned the rest of their starting lineup.
Senior outside hitter Dayne Chalmers (UC Santa Barbara) and senior setter Joe Karlous (Pepperdine) lead the charge.
Newport Harbor has once again gotten off to a torrent start, going undefeated through the Orange County Championships. The Sailors appear to be putting together one final run with head coach Rocky Ciarelli, who will be calling it a career at the end of the season.
“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Ciarelli said of his impending retirement. “I’m sure that Newport will get a very good volleyball coach next year.
“I don’t think it’s breaking anybody’s heart. Let’s put it that way.”
The Sailors continue to shoot for the stars in terms of their season-long goals.
“Our goal is always the same,” Ciarelli said. “Our goal is to win the [Surf] League and to win CIF and now the Southern California [regional] championship. I don’t think the goal could change for us. It’s got to be the same.
“[Los Angeles] Loyola has that goal, [Manhattan Beach] Mira Costa, Corona del Mar, and I’m sure a lot of other teams do, too.
“From what I’ve seen this year, it’s pretty competitive. There [are] a lot of good teams. There’s going to be a lot of, not upsets, but it’s going to be two good teams playing each other, and one night, one team could win, and the next night, the other team could win.”
Corona del Mar (5-1) has designs on winning the new Surf League under first-year head coach Sam Stafford. The Sea Kings have two college-committed players in senior outside hitters Adam Flood (USC) and Max Dunk (Long Beach State).
In addition, CdM possesses multiple jump-serving left-handers in opposite Nick Alacano and setter Bryce Dvorak.
“I think having two lefty jump servers, not very many teams can see that at practice,” Stafford said. “I think from the service line more than anything else, it’s going to be hard for teams to get ready to play us with a third of our serves being a pretty good lefty jump serve.”
Huntington Beach (9-3) is a local team that can make that claim with the likes of libero Mark Aparicio and Trent Douphner. With a brand new lineup of hitters, the Oilers will look to Long Beach State-bound Aidan Knipe to provide precision setting.
After years of dominating the Orange Coast League, Sunset Conference newcomer Laguna Beach (5-2) will have its hands full in the Surf League. The Breakers bring experience in the form of four juniors and two seniors in their starting lineup.
“It is going to be tough to win league, but we do have the personnel to do it with some desire and determination from the gaps we needed to fill this year,” Breakers coach Doug Mauro said. “We are hoping to peak during the [league] season and get a berth into the CIF playoffs.”
Multi-faceted setter Ayrton Garcia signed with George Mason University on Tuesday. Junior opposite Geste Bianchi and junior outside hitter Andrew Reavis are his primary targets.
Edison (8-4) and Los Alamitos (14-5) figure to battle for the Wave League crown, with Fountain Valley (4-4) and Marina (2-3) making up the rest of the four-team league.
Elias Perez, a former assistant coach at Tesoro, has taken over the Chargers’ boys’ volleyball program. Former Edison coach Matt Skolnik, who headed the program for three years, stepped away to spend more time with his family.
“We’ve got a great group of seniors,” Perez said. “We’ve got a really strong chance at making a good little run in league, and then hopefully we can stay healthy enough to make a good run going into CIF.”
UCLA-bound libero Cole Power leads the Chargers, who also return several senior starters in setter Niko Boone and outside hitters James Carpenter and Caden Satterfield.
Marcelo Ponce and James Templin have routinely been among the leaders in kills for the Barons.
Ocean View (4-1) avenged its first-round loss in the Division 4 playoffs against Anaheim from last season. The Seahawks rallied past the visiting Colonists 25-27, 17-25, 25-21, 25-21, 15-12 on Thursday in a nonleague match.
Hunter Miller leads the Seahawks. The senior setter has committed to Briar Cliff University in Iowa.
Costa Mesa (3-4) has had the stronger start of the Battle for the Bell rivals, but Estancia (2-12) split the season series with the Mustangs last season.
The in-city rivals are scheduled to meet at Costa Mesa on March 21, with the series moving to Estancia on April 4.
Pacifica Christian Orange County opened the season with a 20-25, 25-16, 25-15, 25-21 victory in its home opener against Samueli Academy on Friday. Senior middle blocker Isaiah Seward led the Tritons with 10 kills.