Winning back-to-back CIF Southern Section Division 1 titles was surely a great way to cap the high school volleyball careers of Corona del Mar High graduates Patrick Paragas, Kevin Kobrine, Brandon Browning and Diego Perez.
But the four-year run the CdM quartet helped 949 Volleyball Club achieve at the USA Volleyball Junior National Championships was nothing less than historic.
949’s 18-and-under Black team swept Balboa Bay Volleyball Club 18 Blue 25-16, 25-21, in the 18 Open Division national title match on July 5 in Phoenix. With the win, 949 became the first program to have players win four straight national titles from the 15 Open division to the 18 Open division.
Paragas, a setter bound for UC Santa Barbara, earned his third tournament MVP honor in the four-year run, while USC-bound Browning and UCLA-bound Kobrine also made the all-tournament team. Perez, a libero headed to Orange Coast College, gutted through an ankle injury on the final day to help deliver the title.
Other local players on the winning 949 squad, which went 10-1 in the tournament, included Newport Harbor graduate Ethan Talley, bound for Ohio State, and Laguna Beach graduate Sam Burgi, headed for UCLA. The team was coached by former UC Irvine star Kari Hemmerling (Pestolesi).
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Paragas said. “I mean, most of us met in the 15s year. Going through the years, we were trying to build chemistry. It’s just a really cool thing when you can bond over winning four national championships.
“[Earning MVP] feels great. I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work in the weight room, and just trying to show people what I can do. But I couldnt’ have done this without my teammates. My passers — Brandon, Diego and Andrew [McSweeney, who is also headed to UC Santa Barbara] — do such a great job putting me in system and allowing me to run my offense. When I have weapons from every single possible position, it just makes my job that much easier.”
Balboa Bay’s runner-up team featured Patrick Wynn and Nick Alacano of CdM, as well as Newport Harbor standout Dayne Chalmers, who also earned all-tournament team accolades. Huntington Beach High’s Hunter Dickey and Shay Douphner, as well as Matt Palma of Edison, also contributed for Balboa Bay, which had CdM assistant coach Sam Stafford and former Newport Harbor standout Cody Caldwell as assistant coaches.
“I know [Stafford] does a great job scouting other teams,” Paragas said. “I guess it just gave us extra motivation to try to beat them, and luckily it came out that way.”
Though 949 made history in the 18s, Balboa Bay won the 16 Open title on Saturday. Balboa Bay defeated the Borinquen Coqui club from Puerto Rico in the final, 25-20, 25-16.
Browning’s younger brother Justin was one of four CdM players on the winning Balboa Bay squad, as well as Jaden Glenn, Austin Chandler and Glen Linden. Newport Harbor’s Caden Garrido, Sam Walton and Dane Carroll also contributed to the victory, as did Geste Bianchi of Laguna Beach.
Safe to say, it was a good week for the Browning family.
“It was really exciting,” Brandon Browning said. “It was really special to share that special moment of winning [Junior Nationals], making all-tournament and just being there with our families, being able to see all of the hard work pay off.”
As for 949’s historic run in the 18s, Brandon Browning said it would not be soon forgotten.