The gym had barely emptied out at Cerritos College when Back Bay rivals Corona del Mar High and Newport Harbor began plotting their next meeting.
After last Saturday’s epic five-set thriller in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 boys’ volleyball final, the coaches began to think of the best way to motivate their teams for the impending CIF Southern California Regional Division I tournament.
Some questions loomed in the aftermath of CdM’s 23-25, 25-15, 25-23, 23-25, 15-13 victory over Newport Harbor in the section championship match.
So which team deserved to have the top seed in the regional tournament? The powers that be honored the CIF championship.
And now No. 1 CdM (33-4) will host No. 2 Newport Harbor (34-1) in the SoCal Regional Division I final on Saturday at 6 p.m., a match that many are calling the national championship.
The most memorable moments are playing Newport Harbor and CIF finals last year. Those are some of the best games, some of the best moments of your life.
For the record, these are the top two teams in the nation, according to MaxPreps.com. By those rankings, however, Newport Harbor retained the top spot.
“You can’t make up these stories,” Sea Kings setter Patrick Paragas said. “I think if we were going to write a story about how we wanted to end our season, we would say, ‘Playing Newport Harbor at our house.’
“Hopefully, we can beat them and finish our Cinderella season, but we’re expecting a grind on Saturday.”
The story lines for this final contest of the season include a set of brothers who will be playing their last match together, as CdM middle blocker Tyler Flood will be headed to NYU in the fall.
Flood became an integral part of the Sea Kings’ rotation this year. His younger brother, Adam, is a junior outside hitter committed to USC.
“It’s been absolutely insane,” Adam Flood said of sharing the court with his brother this season. “This is the first time that I have played on the same team as my brother. It’s been something truly special being front row with him.
“I can’t even explain it in words. It’s just incredible to be playing with him.”
While coaches searched for the right words to get the best out of their teams this week, a common theme seemed to be a call for a fourth rendition of the Battle of the Bay this spring.
In the teams’ regularly-scheduled nonleague match, Newport Harbor swept visiting CdM 25-18, 25-20, 26-24 on April 7.
Following Newport Harbor’s win over La Jolla to open the regional tournament, junior setter Joe Karlous revealed that Newport Harbor coach Rocky Ciarelli knew exactly what to say to rally the troops.
It’s a lot of playing in three weeks. They played a lot of matches, but I think a chance to play CdM again kept them focused.
He said that Ciarelli looked for a show of hands after asking, “Who wants to play CdM again?” All hands shot up in unison.
“It was easy,” Ciarelli said of pressing the right buttons with his squad. “There’s no doubt that this playoffs is rough. It’s a lot of playing in three weeks. They played a lot of matches, but I think a chance to play CdM again kept them focused. There’s no doubt about that.”
While both teams methodically worked their way through the regional bracket, the collective hope was that they would run into each other again. After the Back Bay rivals won their regional semifinals, Adam Flood confirmed those suspicions.
“I think everyone’s pretty fired up to play [Newport Harbor] again, and I think all of us would have been just a little bummed if [Los Angeles] Loyola would have won,” he said. “Playing Newport Harbor is just going to bring that tremendous atmosphere. Everyone’s going to be in here. I think everyone wants that.”
Although he will not partake in the league contests next year, CdM senior libero Diego Perez said that the matches against Newport Harbor ranked high on his list.
“The most memorable moments are playing Newport Harbor and CIF finals last year,” Perez said. “Those are some of the best games, some of the best moments of your life.”
CIF Southern California Regional Division I final
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Where: Corona del Mar High
Fan info: The doors open at 5 p.m. General admission is $12. Tickets for students with their ASB card, children (ages 5+) and seniors are $8. Fans are encouraged to arrive early, as the match is expected to produce a sellout.