The late arriving patrons were forced to look for parking in surrounding residential streets as the Corona del Mar High gymnasium filled up for senior night.
It was just the sort of thing that would be expected when the CdM boys’ volleyball team opposes Newport Harbor in the Battle of the Bay.
What was not to be expected was the result, as the Sea Kings stunned Newport Harbor, handing the Sailors their first loss in the regular season in the past two years.
Adam Flood had 20 kills and two service aces to lead No. 7 CdM to a 25-18, 21-25, 25-15, 25-23 victory over the top-ranked Sailors on Wednesday night in a Surf League match.
“It was 100 percent energy and emotion out there,” Flood said. “Everyone was trying so hard, and everyone knows each other on the other side of the net, so you work that much harder to try to beat those guys that you know.
“It was just fun playing in that atmosphere. I know [my teammates] were just as fired up to come in here in our home gym, our last match, and absolutely give it our all.”
Sea Kings coach Sam Stafford said that the win came at a critical juncture of the season. Not only was it a must-win game for CdM (18-7, 3-1 in league) in its hopes of securing a top-two automatic playoff berth out of the Surf League, but it was also big for the defending CIF Southern Section Division 1 champions’ psyche.
“Obviously, that’s the standard,” Stafford said of beating Newport Harbor. “That’s the best team in CIF. Obviously, I think that they’re going to be better the next time we play them if we are fortunate enough to play them again.
“It’s just knowing in the back of our heads, ‘We can play with them.’”
Stafford went on to say that he challenged his team coming into the second meeting. Newport Harbor (30-1, 3-1) swept the Sea Kings at home on March 29.
“I questioned our guys, and I doubted our guys. I challenged them. I said, ‘Can we play with these guys?’
“They responded to my challenge. They responded to Newport Harbor’s challenge, and it was great to see from our seniors.”
The fourth set was the tightest of the match, and the Sea Kings scrambled on broken plays to earn match point. Setter Bryce Dvorak took a pass from Zeo Meyer, and he finished with an aggressive tip to give CdM a 24-23 lead in Game 4.
A net violation clinched the match for the Sea Kings on the following point.
Dvorak returned after missing CdM’s last two matches with a sprained right ankle. He had 43 assists, six kills, 2½ blocks and two aces.
“It was great,” Dvorak said of his late kill. “I’m glad that my teammates set me up for that. We had all the plays leading up to that, which led to that.
“It was just a team effort this whole match, so it was good to win.”
Nick Alacano had 12 kills for the Sea Kings. Matt Olson had seven kills and two blocks. Glen Linden added four kills and three blocks, and Shane Premer chipped in with three kills and 1½ blocks.
Olson said he circled this match on the calendar when the schedule first came out. He was excited about the CIF finals rematch on senior night.
“When I saw on our schedule that we were playing them on our senior night at home, you can’t really ask for more than that,” Olson said. “You know that team is going to come back ready to play, and if we see them in CIF, we know that they’re going to give it their all.
“I’m just excited. We need to carry on this energy for the rest of the season.”
Patience wore thin for Sailors coach Rocky Ciarelli in the first set. He called his first timeout with CdM holding a 16-12 lead in Game 1. After the Sea Kings won the next two points, Ciarelli spent his remaining timeout of the first set.
Newport Harbor also argued several calls through the first two sets, including an over-the-net violation by Jack Higgs that resulted in the Sea Kings taking a 15-10 lead.
The Sailors caught fire after that, bouncing back to take an 18-16 lead. A kill by Blake Ludes evened the match at a set apiece.
“The referee is the referee,” Ciarelli said, adding that he thought CdM played very well. “That’s the way it is.
“I don’t think that the kids worried about it too much. I think they questioned some things that went on. That happens in every game. That’s how it works.”