Losing an undefeated season in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title match is not an easy thing, especially against a rival.
That’s what the Newport Harbor High boys’ volleyball team faced after Saturday’s five-set loss to Corona del Mar at Cerritos College. Two days later, the Sailors were back at practice for the CIF Southern California Regional Division I playoffs.
Junior setter Joe Karlous said it wasn’t hard to refocus.
“We got in the gym, and [coach] Rocky [Ciarelli] asked, ‘Who wants to play CdM again?’” Karlous said. “Everyone raised their hand, and we started practice. I think everyone has that goal. We know who we want to play, and who we want to beat.”
On Tuesday night, the Sailors took the first step toward possibly earning their fourth meeting of the season with CdM.
No. 2-seeded Newport Harbor swept No. 7 La Jolla 25-19, 25-15, 25-19 in a CIF SoCal Regional Division I first-round match at home.
Newport Harbor (33-1) will host No. 3 Los Angeles Loyola (25-3) in the semifinals on Thursday at 6 p.m. Loyola edged No. 6 Carlsbad La Costa Canyon on Tuesday in five sets.
At stake Thursday will be a berth in Saturday’s final, where the Sailors could meet the top-seeded Sea Kings again. CdM (32-4) hosts No. 4 Palisades (34-2) in the semifinals on Thursday.
Cole Pender had a match-high 13 kills for Newport Harbor against La Jolla (34-7), the CIF San Diego Section Open Division runner-up. Dayne Chalmers had 10 kills, and Jack Higgs added eight, while Ethan Talley had six kills.
Ryan Schroeder had eight digs for the winners, while Karlous totaled 36 assists.
La Jolla senior outside hitter Luke Lentin, bound for Ohio State, led the Vikings with nine kills. Long Beach State-bound opposite Gabe Vargas had eight kills.
La Jolla had taken a set off Newport Harbor when the teams played March 10 in a Best of the West Tournament semifinal match. But on Tuesday, Vikings coach David Jones said his team missed too many serves — 12 total in the three sets — to put together a similar performance.
“In order to challenge them, we have to do a better job at the service line,” Jones said. “Overall, we had a strong season. I also think that we played some tough teams and did well at the beginning of the season, but our [Western League] was not quite strong enough to play at that level all the way through the season.”
Ciarelli can’t say the same about the Sunset League, which has tough programs like his former one at Huntington Beach. What he did say is that he believes the Sailors are ready to put Saturday’s loss behind them.
“I think having all day Sunday, where we’re not doing anything, you can kind of wallow in your defeat,” Ciarelli said. “We played pretty well, we just didn’t win. I think they felt good about their performance to some extent. It wasn’t like we went in there and got our [behinds] kicked. You know, all year this team has been pretty good about being ready to play, and they were good tonight about it.”
Karlous said that team camaraderie and preparation have been keys to the Sailors’ success this season.