Corona del Mar High volleyball players celebrate their victory over Newport Harbor in the CIF Southern California Regional Division I volleyball final on Saturday.(Christine Cotter )
Corona del Mar High boys’ volleyball coach Steve Conti gets a hug from Brandon Browning after beating rival Newport Harbor in the CIF Southern California Regional Division I final.(Christine Cotter)
Corona del Mar’s Kevin Kobrine elevates over the defense of Newport Harbor’s Dayne Chalmers in the CIF Southern California Regional Division I volleyball final.(Christine Cotter )
Corona del Mar’s Kevin Kobrine attacks the double team of Newport Harbor’s Dayne Chalmers and Ethan Talley in the CIF Southern California Regional Division I volleyball final.(Christine Cotter )
Corona del Mar’s Adam Flood (2) hits a kill against Newport Harbor in the CIF Southern California Regional Division I final.(Christine Cotter )
Corona del Mar’s Patrick Paragas (18) and teammate Brandon Hicks (19) go up for the double block against Newport Harbor in the CIF Southern California Regional Division I volleyball final.(Christine Cotter)
Newport Harbor’s Cole Pender (5) goes up for a block against Corona del Mar’s Brandon Browning in the CIF Southern California Regional Division 1 volleyball final.(Christine Cotter )
When a team accounts for half of one of the best rivalries in a sport, flying under the radar is not an option.
Despite being a highly ranked school all year, however, Corona del Mar High’s boys’ volleyball team may have managed to do just that in some respects.
The Sea Kings took a back seat to Back Bay rival Newport Harbor during the regular season. The Sailors went on a phenomenal run, taking an undefeated record into the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship match.
Then CdM struck, dealing the first blow to Newport Harbor this year. Sea Kings coach Steve Conti sees it as no coincidence that his team defeated the Sailors for the first time in three matches once it had UC Santa Barbara commit Patrick Paragas back at setter.
“It’s almost a blessing, some of the adversity that we went through this year, with guys missing and being out,” Conti said. “I think if we had all of those guys, we may have been going into the CIF finals in the same position that [the Sailors] were in. Sometimes, I think that adversity makes you stronger. It gives you a little more hunger.”
Exactly one week after ending Newport Harbor’s undefeated season, CdM hosted its rival once more in the de-facto national championship match. The Back Bay foes came into Saturday’s match as the top two teams in the nation, as ranked by MaxPreps.com.
The hunger remained for top-seeded CdM, which swept No. 2 Newport Harbor in the CIF Southern California Regional Division I final 25-16, 25-21, 25-19.
A senior-heavy starting lineup made good on its last ride together. Brandon Hicks, the one-time CdM middle school student who returned to the Sea Kings as a transfer from Mater Dei, recounted the feelings of breaking the huddle for the last time.
“I’ve been working hard with them all season,” Hicks said. “Playing with these guys is why I transferred here out of Mater Dei, but I’m really going to miss these guys after the school year is over.
“The memories that we’ve made together is something that I’ll never forget.”
USC signee Brandon Browning had 13 kills. Kevin Kobrine, a UCLA-bound opposite, added 12 kills, and Paragas handed out 45 assists with two solo blocks and four block assists.
Hicks had seven kills and 2½ blocks, Tyler Flood had six kills on .600 hitting, and Diego Perez had 17 digs.
“This is all we could have asked for,” Browning said. “This is as far as we could have gone.”
The Sea Kings (34-4) won the first five points of the match, jumping out to a 14-5 lead in the first set. Browning indicated that his team developed a trait that it would empty the tank every time it took the court.
“That’s our identity,” Browning said. “We’re going to give 110% of whatever we have, and we’re going to leave it all on the floor. No regrets. Just all out.”
CdM evened the score with Newport Harbor for the season, with the Sailors (34-2) having defeated the Sea Kings in the Orange County Championships final and the regular-season Battle of the Bay match.
“They won the Orange County Championship and the city championship, but I’ll take a CIF championship and a state regional championship over those two any time,” Conti said.
Only one other CdM team won both a section and regional title in the same year. The 2011 Sea Kings won a Division 2 section title before winning the Division II regional championship. That team was eventually named national champion.
“I think there was a good indication that this team may be recognized for [a national championship] at some point in the near future, too,” Conti added.
Kobrine enjoyed the regional final more than the CIF championship match because of the setting.
“This one, for sure, felt better,” Kobrine said. “It’s my last home game, my last high school game.”
Dayne Chalmers paced the Sailors with 10 kills, and Cole Pender and Jack Higgs each had eight kills. Joe Karlous had 28 assists and five digs. Ethan Talley had four kills, and Ryan Schroeder added seven digs.
“They played good,” Sailors coach Rocky Ciarelli said of the Sea Kings. “There’s no doubt about it, but I think it was more us than them.
“Not taking anything away from them. They’re a very good team, but we didn’t play to the level we usually do.”