Sea Kings stay alive

CORONA DEL MAR — The Corona del Mar High boys' volleyball team ruined one opponent's prom last Saturday by claiming the CIF Southern Section Division II title.

The Sea Kings wrecked another one. This time, they did so to get a chance to play for another postseason title.

You cannot say host CdM did not accommodate Santa Margarita on Wednesday. The Sea Kings moved the CIF Southern California Regional Division II semifinal a day early because the Eagles had their prom on Thursday, the original date of the match.

The Eagles began to party too early.

Second-seeded CdM bounced back after Coach Steve Conti said his players got off to their worst start to a match this season. But like every Conti coached team, the Sea Kings battled.

For only the second time this year, the Sea Kings went the distance, outlasting third-seeded Santa Margarita, 10-25, 29-27, 26-24, 23-25, 15-12, to reach the program's first regional final. Corona del Mar avenged an earlier loss to Santa Margarita on March 12.

The Sea Kings (31-4) practically stole the match away from a more physical and senior-laden team. How did the Sea Kings pull it off after a lousy opening set?

"I felt like if we could put some pressure on them, and make them think a little bit, I told our guys, 'Big guys kind of fall hard when they fall,' and that was kind of our goal," Conti said. "Almost hope they kind of question themselves why are we we're even in this match, especially after Game 1.

"Sometimes that happens, a team wins so easily in a Game 1 and sometimes it's easy not to put the metal to the pedal and let off the gas a little bit."

Coach Bryan Cottriel has seen Santa Margarita (33-5) fall apart before, and it was not too long ago. Last Saturday was the previous time.

Five-set matches have not been kind to the Eagles. They lost the CIF Southern Section Division I title to Mater Dei in five, 25-22, 18-25, 25-17, 20-25, 16-18.

Four days later, Santa Margarita found itself in another battle. The Eagles had only themselves to blame. The five-set match against CdM to Cottriel, he said, was a "replay of the Mater Dei game all over again."

Cottriel learned it is not always a good thing to get off to such a hot start.

"Coaching with Dan [Glenn at Newport Harbor as an assistant] a couple of years ago we used to think that beating a team that is this good that soundly in a game is not always good for you," Cottriel said. "You kind of get lulled to sleep and we did. We got lulled to sleep. We didn't play with the same intensity in the second game. CdM is very streaky. They got hot very quick."

The Sea Kings turned it on in the second and third sets. Before the match got away from CdM, junior outside hitter Parker Brown and Pepperdine-bound senior opposite Evan Dean showed up.

With Santa Margarita leading, 24-21, in the second set, CdM fought its way back. Brown recorded a kill, then Dean hammered one home, and all of a sudden, the score was 24-24.

Brown put the set away for CdM, producing one of his team-high 19 kills. Cottriel just walked the other way.

"We were up, 24-21, and gave it away," Cottriel said. "I don't know what the final score of that game was."

Cottriel wanted to forget about letting the second set slip away. He knew the second set was the key. The Eagles win and they are up, 2-0, in sets.

The Sea Kings scrapped. And they continued to do so in the third set. Ohio State-bound senior Brennan Anderson came up with crucial kills down the stretch of the third set.

Once again, Santa Margarita had a lead late, 24-22, only to see Anderson record two of his 13 kills late. Then Stanford-bound Spencer Haly stuffed one of Santa Margarita's big hitters, Ryan Baine, who is bound for Loyola University Chicago.

Keegan Jakosky sealed the third set for CdM with a service ace. The Eagles forced a fifth set after UC Santa Barbara-bound outside hitter Spencer Buckley and Baine lifted them to a 25-23 win in the fourth set.

But Buckley and Baine, who finished with 20 and 19 kills, respectively, could only do so much. CdM began the final set with a 4-0 lead, and Baine was able to bring Santa Margarita back, tying the set twice, first at 9-9 with a kill and then at 10-10 with a block.

The Sea Kings closed it out by scoring five of the final seven points. Brown had two kills, Haly one of his eight blocks and Anderson added a kill. CdM was on its way to the regional title match Saturday at Irvine Valley College. The match is scheduled to start at 5 p.m.

"We want Mater Dei so bad," Anderson said.

So did Santa Margarita, in hopes for a rematch. The Sea Kings earned the right to play the Monarchs for the first time. Now, Mater Dei just has to beat Westlake in Thursday's semifinal for a CIF Southern Section Division I champion versus a CIF Southern Section Division II champion matchup in a regional title match.

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