CdM continues postseason charge

CORONA DEL MAR β€” The Corona del Mar High boys' volleyball team earned what Coach Steve Conti called a shot at redemption.

The Sea Kings will again get to play Santa Margarita, only one of three teams than handed CdM a loss this season.

Second-seeded CdM opened the CIF Southern California Regional Division II playoffs at home with a 25-22, 25-20, 25-20 victory against Westview of San Diego on Tuesday. At times, the match lacked the energy CdM displayed Saturday, when it won the CIF Southern Section Division II title against Laguna Beach.

Maybe, Conti said, it was a little bit of a hangover.

Nevertheless, the Sea Kings (30-4) managed to sweep their fourth opponent in the postseason. Do not expect a short match Thursday, when CdM plays host to third-seeded Santa Margarita (33-4) in the regional semifinals at 7 p.m.

"We're certainly going to need to pick up our level of play," Conti said after learning Santa Margarita swept Jordan of Los Angeles, 25-18, 25-19, 25-22, to advance to the regional semis. "We're thankful we get to host [the Eagles].

"This is kind of a new tournament. In the last tournament in CIF, we were able to kind of pick up our level of play as the tournament went on and that's exactly what we're going to need to do in this regional tournament."

The regional tournament is shorter than the section one, so CdM has to get better in a hurry. All CdM needs to do now is win two matches to claim the program's first regional title.

The Sea Kings have made it look easy in their five postseason matches, only Laguna Beach was able to extend a match against CdM past three sets.

Corona del Mar and Santa Margarita played a best-of-three quarterfinal match on March 12 at the Best of the West tournament in Poway. The Eagles rallied and beat the Sea Kings, 34-36, 27-25, 15-10, en route to reaching the tournament's title match.

Conti has not forgotten how that match got away.

"We won the first one, 36-34, and we were up, 20-12, in the second set and lost," said Conti, whose team went on to place fifth at the Best of the West. "They're definitely going to be a handful. They got two stud outsides [in Spencer Buckley and Ryan Baine], probably the best one-two punch in CIF, and arguably the best setter [in Taylor Hammond] in CIF, too.

"We lost to three teams this year and we were able to redeem ourselves [against one] in the Battle of the Bay [in the regular-season finale] against Newport Harbor, and if it's important to these guys, maybe they want to redeem themselves [against Santa Margarita]. We certainly had that last one in [Poway] in that tournament up, 20-12, one game to zero, and it slipped through our fingertips."

The Sea Kings made sure they got a second chance at Santa Margarita. Two juniors led the way past Westview (33-5), outside hitter Park Brown and middle blocker Jack Reed.

Brown finished with a team-high 18 kills and he added six digs, while Reed contributed a dozen kills and two blocks. Setters Nick Curci (24 assists) and Joe Ctvrtlik (22) distributed the ball.

Even though CdM earned a better seed in the regional playoffs than Santa Margarita did, it received a tougher opening-round opponent. Westview upset La Costa Canyon in the CIF San Diego Section Division II championship last week. Jordan is from the L.A. City Section, which is not as strong as the San Diego Section.

It did not matter who the Sea Kings played, however. They reeled off their 11th straight victory. Down the stretch of the regular season, CdM has swept eight opponents.

Only once all season has CdM experienced a five-set match. It happened against Back Bay rival Newport Harbor right before the playoffs. The win got the Sea Kings ready for the postseason.

Santa Margarita played in its first five-set match last Saturday in the CIF Southern Section Division I final in which it lost to Mater Dei. If Santa Margarita can get past CdM again, it can avenge that loss to the Monarchs in the regional final on Saturday at Irvine Valley College.

The Monarchs (29-3) are the top seed and should win against Westlake.

Corona del Mar will do whatever it takes for a Santa Margarita-Mater Dei rematch not to happen. The Sea Kings want a shot at another title. Getting revenge on the Eagles is CdM's ticket.

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