High Schools: No double duty for Conti

Thirteen days ago, Corona del Mar High Athletic Director Don Grable was on the road. He went to watch the boys' volleyball team play at Beckman, not to talk the coach into applying for the girls' volleyball job.

Grable said Steve Conti had not applied for the opening and he understood why.

"He's got a family," Grable said of Conti, who coached the girls' program before, starting in 1997, when he led CdM to a CIF Southern Section Division III-AA title, and then resigned in 2001 because he and his wife were starting a family. "It's a big-time responsibility to fill two positions with two little kids. Respect his decision. He does a hell of a job coaching the boys. Am I disappointed or frustrated [that he did not apply]? No. I'd be really disappointed and frustrated if we lost him as boys coach, though. I want to keep him around.

"I'm not talking to him about anything. I want to focus on the candidates who have indicated they want to do it."

The deadline to apply for the position passed on Friday.

Grable said CdM hopes to have a new coach in place by the end of the month or at the start of May. Whoever replaces Darryl Gan, who stepped down after three successful seasons in January, he or she will most likely be a walk-on coach.

Grable said the job does not include a teaching position. He said this has not been an issue in finding quality candidates.

"In the sport of volleyball, it seems like there's a lot more walk-ons than there are in other sports," Grable said. "We've already gotten many quality candidates. Ideally, we always want all of our coaches on campus as long as they're good teachers, but we can't offer what we don't have."

The past three girls' coaches, Gan, Bill Christiansen and Conti, have each been walk-ons. Conti transferred as a physical education teacher to CdM in October.

Each of the past three walk-on coaches had success while in charge of the Sea Kings. The three have also stepped down because of family reasons.

Gan led the program to three Pacific Coast League titles, two section final appearances, two state regional appearances, and a 73-23 record.

From 2001 to 2007, Christiansen won four league titles, coached in three section final appearances, winning one in 2004, and posted a 134-65 record.

Whether the next coach is a walk-on or not, Grable believes he or she will continue CdM's storied tradition. The Sea Kings have won seven section titles in 17 final appearances and four state titles in four final appearances.

Grable points to the hiring of three recent walk-on coaches, George Larsen (boys' soccer), G.W. Mix (boys' lacrosse), Sam Bailey (girls' water polo), in other sports for proof that a walk-on can be successful at CdM.

"I'd put those guys up against anybody," Grable said.

In his first season, Larsen led the boys' soccer program in 2009-10 to a CIF Southern Section Division IV title and a CIF Southern California Regional Division II title, both firsts at CdM. This past season, the Sea Kings reached the section semifinals.

Last season, Mix's first, he guided the Sea Kings to the U.S. Lacrosse Orange County Southern Section Division I title game.

Bailey wrapped up his first season as the girls' water polo coach. The Sea Kings advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division I semifinals.

"It's frustrating to lose good coaches," said Grable, who helped CdM last month hire Scott Meyer as its football coach after the program saw Jason Hitchens resign after he took the Sea Kings to the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

"But there [are] other good coaches out there. We look forward to finding them."

Newport Harbor got past powerhouse Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach on the boys' volleyball court.

The Sailors have not figured out Santa Margarita yet.

Santa Margarita swept Newport Harbor, 25-20, 25-21, 25-23, in the finale of the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions on Saturday at Santa Barbara High. The Sailors are winless in three matches against the Eagles this season.

Newport Harbor (17-7), ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Division I coaches' poll, have only taken one set against top-ranked Santa Margarita, coming in the final of the Orange County Championships at Edison High on March 21. The Eagles (24-2) have been tough to beat all season, their only losses coming against No. 2-ranked Mira Costa and Buchanan of Clovis.

Newport Harbor upset Mira Costa, 25-19, 18-25, 25-17, 22-25, 15-11, in the semifinals, avenging a sweep at Mira Costa on March 25. Senior outside hitter Cody Caldwell recorded 58 kills in the final two matches of the tournament.

CdM placed fifth at the two-day tournament.

Corona del Mar senior Max Priestley, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound offensive lineman, has committed to play football at Abilene Christian in Texas.

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