The Newport Harbor High boys’ volleyball team has made a habit of going deep into the playoffs.
Like any other sport, volleyball has its blue bloods.
Although the schools never appear on each other’s schedule in the regular season, Newport Harbor has been squaring off with Los Angeles Loyola on a rather regular basis in the postseason.
Newport Harbor traveled to Loyola for a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal match during the 2017 campaign. In that meeting, the Sailors were swept to end their run.
Last season, the Sailors returned the favor against the Cubs with a sweep at home in the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I semifinals.
But it was a different sort of recent history that the Sailors were most concerned with coming into Wednesday, and for that matter, all season.
After falling just short of an undefeated season with a five-set loss to Back Bay rival Corona del Mar in the section final last May, Newport Harbor was one step away from giving itself a second bite at the apple.
Dayne Chalmers had a match-high 22 kills, and top-seeded Newport Harbor came away with a 25-20, 25-17, 25-23 sweep at Loyola on Wednesday night in the semifinals.
Newport Harbor (35-1) advances to play No. 2-seeded Manhattan Beach Mira Costa (23-5)in the championship match on Saturday at Cerritos College. Mira Costa beat Santa Barbara 15-25, 27-25, 25-20, 25-17 in the semifinals.
“It’s amazing,” Chalmers said of returning to the CIF finals. “Ever since we lost last year, our goal has been to get back and do it the right way and finish it off how we want. I’m very happy right now that we’ve made it back to the CIF finals.”
Joe Karlous had 33 assists and two kills for the Sailors. In the middle, Alec Patterson added four kills and 3½ blocks, with Caden Garrido adding five kills and two blocks.
Libero Ryan Schroeder had 11 digs. Another veteran on this year’s Newport Harbor squad, Schroeder said that experience has bred confidence in the team. Looking back on the semifinal match against the Cubs his sophomore year, Schroeder said he felt much differently coming into this one as the favorite.
“I remember that game,” Schroeder said. “They were just a gnarly team. I just remember them being huge and really intimidating. Now, my grade is all of the seniors.
“We don’t really get intimidated by other teams anymore. It’s kind of we just know we’re the best.”
Often times, teams that make it to the championship round have done so with guile, skill, and of course, a little bit of luck. The Sailors were fortunate that health remained an ally for them in the second set against Loyola (21-5).
Blake Ludes and Patterson converted on a double block that gave the Sailors a 21-14 lead in Game 2, but Ludes appeared to land on Patterson’s foot on the way down.
“Immediately, I wanted to take Advil to numb the pain, but that takes a while to kick in, so I just walked it off,” Ludes said. “My team was just telling me that I’m good, and they had my back.
“It’s like a brotherhood on this team, and everyone is willing to do anything for anyone. It was really cool just seeing everyone have my back.”
Like Ludes, Patterson is a first-year starter for the Sailors. He is ecstatic to make the final as a key contributor in his senior season.
“It’s insane,” Patterson said. “It’s my first year being on varsity as a starter, and it’s just pretty crazy to feel that energy that I’ve been watching for the past three years.
“Just to come out here and put these guys away, it feels really good to take the sweep from them. I’m just really happy with the way that we played tonight.”
Luke Turner finished with 12 kills and two blocks for the Cubs. Henry Wedbush totaled 27 assists and William Campbell added six kills.
Asked if he would have advice for his team after last year’s defeat in the CIF finals, Sailors coach Rocky Ciarelli indicated that experience can be one of the best teachers.
“It helps that they’ve been there. I think any sport you’re in, they’ll tell you, ‘Going through it the first time, it’s different.’
“That we’ve been through it definitely helps.”
Support our sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.