For Corona del Mar High, many new faces will be tasked with following in the footsteps of one of the great high school boys’ volleyball teams ever to be assembled.
The new-look CdM team was out to prove that the cupboard was not left empty in its season opener on Thursday night against an old Pacific Coast League rival in Beckman.
Senior outside hitter Adam Flood had a match-high 17 kills to lead the host Sea Kings to a 25-23, 25-17, 25-13 nonleague victory, making Sam Stafford a winner in his debut as CdM’s head coach.
Former CdM coach Steve Conti was among those in attendance, and Stafford said that he felt nervous coming into the match.
“[I felt] more nervous than I’ve been in a long time,” Stafford said. “I felt like I was in a playoff match or something like that. I’m relieved now that it is done.
“I think that it took us a while [to get going]. In the first set, I think it was a lot of these guys’ first game, kind of, in a varsity match. They played very well against a team that is pretty good.”
Flood, a USC commit, had seven kills in the first set, but Karl Stenlund was matching him swing for swing for Beckman (3-3). The senior outside hitter, who has committed to Long Beach State, had eight of his 15 kills in Game 1.
Senior middle blocker Matt Olson ended a close first set with a solo block of Nicolas Uribe, accentuating the big point with a staredown that he said just came to him in the moment.
“Having all these new faces on the team this year, I think it’s a really big part of me and Adam’s job to lead the team and lead by example,” said Olson, who finished with six kills. “After getting that block, I kind of wanted to get everybody fired up for these next two sets. We needed to amp up the energy and just pick up our play. I thought that really led to way better play by the entire team.”
Bryce Dvorak handed out 35 assists, proving himself more than capable of handling a 5-1 offense for the Sea Kings. He added a powerful left-handed swing on second contact for his only kill in the third set.
The new Sea Kings setter showed no signs of being afraid to step into the spotlight, as he replaces the talented Patrick Paragas, who has gone on to play for UC Santa Barbara.
“It’s a great team,” Dvorak said. “We have a lot of legacy. Something new is that we have a new coach, [Sam] Stafford. We have a lot of new players, also, but I think that we have the talent and the desire to hopefully win another championship. It’s going to take a lot of hard work.”
Long Beach State-bound outside hitter Max Dunk had seven kills and three blocks for CdM. Opposite Nick Alacano added five kills, two service aces and 1½ blocks, and libero Jaden Glenn provided 17 digs.
Flood said that this year’s CdM team is just as invested as the one that went on to finish at the top of the MaxPreps.com national poll last season.
The Sea Kings appeared to be enjoying themselves in their first match, which Flood thought was important given their need to grow as a unit.