IRVINE — An official walked toward the Corona del Mar High bench to tell Coach Steve Conti that his players had to sit during the boys’ volleyball match.
There were not enough chairs for the Sea Kings and their coaching staff before the match at University High on Monday.
Two players from University’s side came over with a couple of folded chairs. Only one assistant sat courtside, as the others had to move to the stands to make room for CdM’s players.
The rest of the assistants sat in the second row and stretched out their legs. They did not have enough time to get comfortable.
In less than an hour, the Sea Kings swept University, 25-18, 25-16, 25-15, and clinched the Pacific Coast League title outright with one league match left. There was not much of a celebration.
The Sea Kings expect to win in league. They have not dropped a league match in six years.
As Conti said CdM wrapped up its 12th league title in the last 13 seasons under him, he looked ahead. Two regular-season matches at home remain — Beckman on Thursday and Newport Harbor on Friday.
Both are huge for CdM (23-4, 9-0 in league), which is ranked No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section Division II coaches’ poll, and for different reasons.
The Sea Kings are trying to close out league play perfect and then claim the Battle of the Bay the following day.
“That may be a difficult thing,” Conti said of keeping his players focused on Beckman before competing in the annual rivalry match with Newport Harbor. “Beckman is the only team so far that’s taken a [set] off us in league. Even the first two [sets] against Beckman that we won were all deuce [sets]. I don’t think we’ve played our best volleyball against Beckman. I think these guys want to be able to hopefully come out and play a little bit better.
“We’ve got two days to get ready for two teams. Hopefully, our guys aren’t looking ahead toward Harbor [and] we take care of business Thursday night.”
If CdM knocks off Beckman, Conti believes his team will lock up the top seed in the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs.
The release of the playoff pairings is Sunday. The Sea Kings have a lot of work to do before making a run at winning their first section title since 2007.
Conti wants his players to be playing good, competitive volleyball around this time of the year. Playing at a high level is vital heading into the playoffs.
Against University, which is winless in league, the Sea Kings at times looked rusty.
Conti said his team’s serving wasn’t spectacular. After committing two service errors in the opening set, the Sea Kings tripled that amount in the second set.
“I don’t think we’re really accustomed to playing on Mondays,” said Conti, whose team usually plays league matches on Tuesdays and Fridays. “I think that if we [had] practiced before, we may have been a little bit sharper. But we’ve got two days of practice to get ready for two big matches at the end of the week.”
The Sea Kings used everyone to get past the Trojans. Parker Brown led CdM with a dozen kills, followed by Jack Reed’s seven kills. Spencer Haly and Chip Zucker finished with five kills apiece
Joe Ctvrtlik and Nick Curci set the offense. Ctvrtlik finished with 18 assists.
Both setters have options, a strength for CdM this season. This bodes well in the Sea Kings’ chances of going into the postseason on a five-match winning streak.
Whereas Beckman and Newport Harbor rely on a couple of big hitters, the Sea Kings feature a balanced attack.
The Sailors have defeated CdM twice this season, each time at a tournament. The Sea Kings have not won a set in either of those two meetings.
The four losses by CdM this season have come against three of the finest in Division I: No. 1 Santa Margarita; No. 3 Loyola of Los Angeles; and No. 4 Newport Harbor. The last time CdM beat Newport Harbor was in last season’s Battle of the Bay, which went the distance.
This year’s match might go another five sets. There will not be an issue with seating at CdM for its players and coaches.
For the fans, that is a different story.