Corona del Mar High’s boys’ volleyball team has enjoyed substantial success.
The Sea Kings always have talent, and that means that freshmen rarely crack the lineup for Coach Steve Conti’s team.
Patrick Paragas was an exceptional case. In 2015, the CdM boys’ basketball team reached the CIF Southern Section Division 3A final, and its season continued in the Southern California Division III regionals.
During that run, the boys’ volleyball team was down five players, including its setter Matthew Ctvrtlik (Harvard). Paragas came up early in the season to fill the void as the team headed to the Best of the West Tournament.
Limited experience is better than none. That stint makes Paragas the only freshman to be rostered by CdM since the 2014 season.
“Eventually, when you have played at a high level at a young age, as you continue to grow and play at that high level, the game begins to slow down for you,” Conti said of Paragas. “His ability to kind of read the defense and his feel for the game and his IQ from an offensive standpoint is pretty high.”
Paragas certainly had a level of comfort with the group that took the floor for the Sea Kings this season. He has started alongside libero Diego Perez, opposite Kevin Kobrine, and outside hitter Brandon Browning in winning gold medals at the Junior Olympics with the 949 Volleyball Club the past three years.
Blessed with an outstanding group of attackers, all of which secured commitments from Division 1 colleges, Paragas helped the Sea Kings go a perfect 8-0 in the CIF postseason. His hitters were middle blockers Brandon Hicks (UCSB) and Tyler Flood (NYU), USC-bound outside hitters Adam Flood and Browning, and the UCLA-committed Kobrine at opposite.
Conti has likened Paragas to a quarterback. While the senior agreed, he said any winning quarterback needs a strong supporting cast.
“Just like any team, the quarterback needs good receivers to catch the ball and great linemen to protect him,” Paragas said. “The passers are my linemen who are making me look good and giving me enough time to put me in good places to throw the ball to the receiver, or in this case, the hitters.”
Like Hicks, Paragas has also signed with the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. The two of them plan to be roommates in college.
A devout Los Angeles Lakers fan, Hicks gave Paragas one of the highest endorsements that such a person can muster.
“If I were to compare him to anyone, he’s got that killer mentality,” Hicks said. “I think that he is a little bit like Kobe Bryant. He’s a ‘win at all costs’ guy. Do whatever it takes to win.”
Paragas handed out an astonishing 64 assists when the Sea Kings (34-4) ended the undefeated run of rival Newport Harbor (34-2) in the Division 1 final. CdM won the match 23-25, 25-15, 25-23, 23-25, 15-13.
Alumni of the CdM boys’ volleyball program often stop by their old stomping grounds. On one occasion, Paragas remembered being told by current USC Trojans Ryan Moss and Clay Dickinson to cherish the Battle of the Bay rivalry.
“They came into practice one day,” Paragas said. “They both play for USC right now, and they said, ‘You’ll never have an atmosphere like Battle of the Bay. You have all of your friends in the crowd. You know at least half the people in the crowd, and you’re playing for them.’”
The Sea Kings had a special season, repeating as CIF champions and beating their Back Bay rivals in both the Division 1 section final and the Division I regional title match.
In the regional final, Paragas produced 45 assists and two solo blocks as CdM swept Newport Harbor 25-16, 25-21, 25-19. The match was billed as the national championship, as the teams occupied the top two spots in the national rankings, as provided by MaxPreps.com.
Paragas called hosting and winning the regional final against the Sailors the perfect ending to his high school career.
“So many of us have grown up together since seventh grade,” Paragas said. “It’s no better way to end your high school career. To end it by playing Newport Harbor at your house and sweeping them, that’s just a Cinderella story all to its own.”
Born: April 30, 2000
Hometown: Newport Beach
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 185 pounds
Coach: Steve Conti
Favorite food: Steak (Lawry’s)
Favorite movie: “Avatar”
Favorite athletic moment: Paragas had the unique opportunity to compete for a regional championship in the final home match of his high school career. The Sea Kings swept rival Newport Harbor.