In a team sport like volleyball, emotion is often utilized as a tool for teammates to rally around each other.
On Wednesday night, it turned out to be a double-edged sword for the Corona del Mar High boys’ volleyball team.
When a call did not go the Sea Kings’ way to decide the second set, it opened the door for either CdM or host Los Angeles Loyola to seize control of the nonleague match. The Cubs ran through that door and raced to the finish line.
Junior outside hitter Luke Turner had a team-high 12 kills and three service aces, and Loyola defeated CdM 20-25, 26-24, 25-18, 25-9.
In a match that featured two of the top five teams in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2 poll, the No. 4-ranked Cubs (4-1) pulled away with quick starts in the third and fourth sets. Loyola went on an eight-point run on Turner’s serve to open a 10-1 advantage in Game 4.
“That was our motto in sets two, three and four was, ‘Start quick, finish fast,’” Cubs coach Michael Boehle said. “Set two, we did not. It was a battle all the way through, and then we got up 24-21, and we let them back in.
“We got through that by the seat of our pants, and I think if it goes the other way, we’ve got a different story that we’re talking about. That was a big momentum change for us, too, going into set three, and we took advantage of it.”
The Sea Kings’ lineup got a boost when senior outside hitter Max Dunk, a true game-time decision, was able to return from a bout with strep throat. He had also been nursing an ankle injury since the season opener against Beckman on Feb. 21.
“It felt good to get out there and compete with these guys,” Dunk said after providing six kills and two blocks in his first match back. “We have a good squad. It was really fun playing with them.”
Glen Linden led the No. 5 Sea Kings (5-2) with 13 kills, Nick Alacano added 12 kills, and Matt Olson chipped in with eight kills and three blocks. Bryce Dvorak totaled 37 assists to go with five kills, 3½ blocks and two aces.
In a tight first set, the Sea Kings finally went on a late run. Justin Browning served it out, as CdM won the final five points. Olson and Dunk combined on a block to clinch Game 1.
Back came Loyola, repelling a late comeback attempt by CdM in Game 2 to take it 26-24. The final point of the set was a controversial one, as the Sea Kings did not believe Browning’s attack from the left side to be outside of the antenna.
Emotion appeared to play a big role in the third set. The Cubs came out swinging, while CdM assistant coach Cody Caldwell was issued a yellow card for leaving his seat to coach.
The third set turned out to be the beginning of the end, as the Cubs got off to another quick start in Game 4.
“We got caught up in everything that wasn’t volleyball, and we’ve got to be a little bit mentally better over the course of a match,” Sea Kings coach Sam Stafford said. “I think there were calls that went both ways. It’s nowhere near the reason that we lost the match.
“I do think that we played hard. [The Cubs] were great in transition, and they made some plays where the ball was in by an inch. We hit it, and the ball was out by an inch.”
The Cubs turned defense into offense with the help of their 6-2 offense. Will Campbell, a UC San Diego commit, had 22 assists, six kills and 1½ blocks. Henry Wedbush added 15 assists, seven kills and two blocks.
Over the weekend, the Sea Kings tied with Los Alamitos for third place in the Orange County Championships, doing so despite having several starters out of the lineup.
Senior outside hitter Adam Flood (dislocated right ring finger) and junior libero Jaden Glenn (dislocated shoulder) remained out on Wednesday.
Stafford said that Flood was closer to a return. Flood, a USC commit, may be ready to play when CdM competes in the Best of the West Invitational in San Diego County on Friday and Saturday.
Glenn could be out for two to three more weeks.
Dunk said that his team needs to “buckle down and play good volleyball,” regardless of who is out of the lineup.
“I thought it was a great match for us,” Stafford said of facing the Cubs. “The way the last couple of years [have gone], that’s a team that we’re probably going to have to beat down the road.”