The Battle of the Bay stands as one of the fiercest rivalries in high school sports today.
An additional chapter was added on Saturday, undoubtedly one of the best ever to be written in the storied rivalry.
Dayne Chalmers’ serve found the net on match point, sending Newport Harbor into shock and Corona del Mar into a state of euphoria.
The Sea Kings successfully repeated as champions with a 23-25, 25-15, 25-23, 23-25, 15-13 win in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 boys’ volleyball championship match at Cerritos College.
“This team has done something that no team in the history of CdM has done before,” Sea Kings coach Steve Conti said. “We’ve had a five-year stretch where we’ve made it to the finals, a three-year stretch, a two-year stretch, and a four-year stretch. This is the only team that has ever gone back-to-back. I think that was a big part of their motivation. Certainly, this group of seniors has a legacy that they have left behind, but I think they want to leave even a bigger legacy.
“I think that gave us a lot of motivation to come to this match tonight and try to get it done. We knew that it was not going to be easy, and it wasn’t.”
Brandon Hicks had 24 kills on .618 hitting to pace the Sea Kings (31-4). Brandon Browning added 21 kills and 14 digs, and Kevin Kobrine had 18 kills, 14 digs and seven block assists. Patrick Paragas handed out 64 assists.
Liberos Diego Perez and Patrick Wynn had 16 digs and 13 digs, respectively.
“Coach Conti…, ever since my freshman year, he’s always said, ‘The best memories are made in May,’” the USC-bound Browning said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing here.
“It means so much for all of us. We’ve just been fighting and working for this. We’ve all put it together since seventh grade. It’s just an unbelievable feeling to be able to come out here and make history like that.”
The Sea Kings will take this not-so-insignificant footnote with them. They ended Newport Harbor’s perfect season. The Sailors’ record moved to 32-1 overall in the first five-set match for either team this year.
As a program, the Sea Kings improved to 9-7 in CIF championship matches. Newport Harbor dropped to 3-5 in such contests.
Hicks had yet to experience championship glory, as the senior middle blocker transferred from Mater Dei to CdM this year. He had attended CdM in middle school, and his motivation was two-fold. He wanted to spend one last year with those of whom he had learned the game, and he wanted a title.
“It’s really indescribable, the emotions that were happening on the court,” Hicks said. “I guess just joy. It was just such a great feeling.
“I always hear that when you win a championship, for 15 minutes, it’s just the shock that you’re in, the euphoria. I finally know how that feels. I’m so happy that this team got over the hump in the fifth set and ended up winning.”
Although the Sea Kings came up short in the first set, senior middle blocker Tyler Flood helped to set the tone. He had a solo block and five block assists in the first set, leading to a 5½-block total for the NYU commit.
“The ending is amazing, and I wouldn’t want to end the season any other way than 15-13 against our crosstown rival,” Flood said. “That’s just the greatest feeling ever.
“In the first set, we came in way more prepared this time to play them. I watched a ton of video. I knew their tendencies. I always just trusted my teammates. They were taking away the angle. I was supposed to block.”
UCLA signee Cole Pender and Chalmers led Newport Harbor with 17 kills apiece. Jack Higgs had eight kills and 12 digs. Ohio State-bound middle blocker Ethan Talley added six kills, two solo blocks and two service aces. Joe Karlous had 41 assists.
This season has featured three Battle of the Bays so far. Newport Harbor defeated the Sea Kings in the Orange County Championships final and the teams’ regularly scheduled nonleague match.