Senior outside hitter Dayne Chalmers slammed down one final kill and ran straight into the arms of his setter Joe Karlous.
The two will both play volleyball in college, but before they left Newport Harbor High, they had to change recent history.
Newport Harbor experienced the agony of defeat the year before when it suffered its first loss in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship match against Back Bay rival Corona del Mar.
In a second chance to make good, the Sailors redeemed themselves and earned the spoils of victory.
Chalmers had a match-high 20 kills to go with 11 digs, and Newport Harbor beat Manhattan Beach Mira Costa 25-20, 25-23, 15-25, 25-21 in the Division 1 title match on Saturday night at Cerritos College.
“It feels so good,” said the Pepperdine-bound Karlous, who had 45 assists and seven digs. “I’m a little speechless because it just kind of happened. It hit when Dayne gave me a big old hug, and then we were just there. It just felt so right.”
Chalmers, a UC Santa Barbara signee, had similar sentiments about the embrace as their teammates celebrated around them.
“At that moment, it was the best thing in the world,” Chalmers said. “Joe and I are really close friends. We’ve been playing together since we were 12. I love that kid, so the connection from him to me all night was just huge. It was a great moment to have with him.”
Sailors coach Rocky Ciarelli, who plans to hang up his coaching hat at season’s end, went out just like his counterpart from across the Back Bay in former CdM head coach Steve Conti – on top.
Ciarelli’s decision was widely known, and of course, Conti unexpectedly stepped away from the Sea Kings program in November.
The CIF State Southern California Division I regional tournament begins on Tuesday. Ciarelli, who has coached high school varsity volleyball for 32 years, was in a mood to joke after the victory.
“We still got three more, so I’m not out yet,” Ciarelli said. “You’re trying to get rid of me.”
Asked how much he wanted this one with it being his last season of coaching, Ciarelli outlined the kind of competitor that he is.
“I want to win every time I play, but yeah, it’s more special,” Ciarelli added. “The kids knew that this was it for me this year. I’m sure that played into it a little bit.
“I don’t care what I’m doing. If I’m playing tiddlywinks, I want to win. That’s just the way I am.”
Caden Garrido had 11 kills, Jack Higgs added nine kills, and Blake Ludes chipped in with six kills for Newport Harbor (36-1). Alec Patterson produced four kills to go with three total blocks, and Ryan Schroeder led the Sailors defensively with 14 digs.
Both of the prior two meetings between Newport Harbor and Mira Costa in the CIF finals went five sets. Newport Harbor won the Division 4A title against the Mustangs in 1987, while Mira Costa beat the Sailors in 2008 for the Division 1 crown.
The schools have also met in the CIF playoffs eight times. Newport Harbor evened the postseason series at 4-4.
Newport Harbor comfortably put away the first set, led by five kills from Chalmers and four kills from Higgs.
Mira Costa battled back to win Game 3 convincingly, feeding off the energy of Sam Collins. The Mustangs opposite came off the bench in the second set, and he provided four kills in each of the next two sets on .500 hitting, including the Game 3 clincher.
Ciarelli had often expressed his appreciation for the consistency of his team. It was proven time and again how difficult it could be to sustain a level of play that could beat the Sailors.
After dropping a set for the first time during these playoffs, Newport Harbor quickly built a lead it would not relinquish.
Ben Coordt led Mira Costa (23-6) with 16 kills, and Collins added 14 kills. Jack Walmer also had 51 assists for the Mustangs.
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