CdM to play for title

CORONA DEL MAR β€” Three matches in the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs, three sweeps for Corona del Mar High.

The Sea Kings have made the road to the boys' volleyball section final match an easy one.

The latest three-set victory for CdM was at home Tuesday in the semifinals against Trabuco Hills, 25-16, 25-23, 25-13. Fans congratulated Coach Steve Conti for advancing to his ninth section finale in 16 years at the helm of the boys' program.

In boys' section title matches under Conti, CdM has a .500 record. The one on Saturday at Cypress College is not 50-50.

Top-seeded CdM (28-4) is the clear-cut favorite. Conti tried to downplay how dominant his team has been in the postseason.

"I don't know if we've ever really gone is as the favorite," Conti said.

The Sea Kings have that tag, even though the program they will meet in the championship is defending champion Laguna Beach (20-10). In the two matches against the Breakers this season, CdM has swept each time.

Second-seeded Laguna Beach earned a third shot at CdM after it beat visiting Beckman in a semifinal match on Tuesday.

"We know whoever we're going to play, we're going to have a hungry opponent," Conti said. "I don't care what kind of championship you're playing. I don't care if it's Tee ball, or Division I or Division XXII, everyone is going to want to do the same thing when they step on that court at Cypress College."

That is winning it all. The opposition has found it difficult to win a set against CdM, let alone challenge the Sea Kings in the playoffs.

At the start, the Sea Kings made a statement against Trabuco Hills (22-6), ranked fifth in the final Division II coaches' poll. Coach Dave Holloway called for a timeout after his Mustangs fell behind, 8-3, in the opening set.

It was one of many Holloway asked for.

To show how balanced CdM's attack is, five players recorded kills during the fast start. The Sea Kings are not a one- or two-man show. They are a complete team.

The Sea Kings boast seniors heading to Division I programs, outside hitter Brennan Anderson (Ohio State), opposite Evan Dean (Pepperdine) and middle blocker Spencer Haly (Stanford), but they always get an all-around effort.

Anderson led the group with 10 kills and added four digs. Junior outside hitter Parker Brown contributed nine kills, five digs and two service aces.

Haly finished with seven kills and two blocks, Dean with six kills, and Jack Reed and Remy Lamons each had five kills.

Setters Nick Curci and Joe Ctvrtlik distributed 17 assists apiece.

"I think if we show up and play our best volleyball that we can take them," Brown said. "I'm really excited because we went to the semis a year ago and we didn't finish. I really think we can finish this year."

Conti said the Sea Kings could not get complacent. At times, they did in the second set, allowing Trabuco Hills to lead for much of the set, despite losing middle blocker John Hansen to a foot injury in the first set.

Corona del Mar rallied and returned to form.

The impressive postseason run by the Sea Kings is different compared to last season. They are no longer in Division I, the toughest in the playoffs.

The last time CdM made a section final appearance was in Division II. It was four years ago and the Sea Kings prevailed against Santa Barbara.

They are back and have a great shot to not only claim the crown, but also do it in sweeping fashion.

"That's not something that even comes across my mind," Conti said whether the Sea Kings can cap the section playoffs without dropping a set. "What comes across my mind is we want to focus on playing good volleyball."

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