Caldwell best in town

Dan Glenn likes to say he's coached quite a few talented players in his 25 years with the Newport Harbor High boys' volleyball program.

The most recent one was Cody Caldwell, a 6-foot-6 outside hitter.

Another newspaper quoted Glenn as saying Caldwell was the best he has ever coached. Glenn mentioned he took a lot of heat for the quote, undeservedly because Glenn said he never said Caldwell was the best.

As for where Caldwell ranks with the rest of the greats at Newport Harbor, Glenn just says he is right up there. The reason for the praise is that the biggest strength Caldwell possessed was his overall game on the court.

"He's good at everything," Glenn said. "Pass, serve, receive, he does it the best."

Caldwell turned in by far the best season of any player in the area.

While his Sailors did not go the furthest of the local teams in the playoffs, Caldwell proved almost impossible to stop. For that, Caldwell is the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year.

The honor goes to Caldwell for the second time during his stellar four-year career. He earned practically every volleyball honor after recording 641 kills, 221 digs, 43 blocks and 32 service aces as a senior.

The list of accolades for Caldwell is long, from the Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year, to American Volleyball Coaches Assn. first-team All-American honors, to All-CIF Southern Section Division I honors, to the Sunset League MVP.

He was also named MVP of the 18 Open Gold Division at the 2011 USA Volleyball Boys' Junior National Championships Saturday. He led the Balboa Bay Volleyball Club to the national title.

One item Caldwell would trade in all the awards for is a prize he never won, a CIF Southern Section Division I title.

In his freshman season, he played for one, only to see the Sailors let one slip away and lose in five sets to Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach. Caldwell shrugged it off because he believed this might be the first of two or three trips to the section finale.

Caldwell never returned to the big stage.

The final two seasons ended in the same round, the quarterfinals. You bet Caldwell felt disappointed when he ran out of chances in May.

"It was a tough way to end the season," Glenn said of the five-set loss at Westlake. "We were playing good volleyball and we got beat by a good Westlake team. We were up, 2-1, and had a shot. [Westlake] played really well the two games and that was it."

While Caldwell's season with his teammates was over, his career was not.

He will play on the next level at Loyola University Chicago. Glenn is confident Caldwell will excel in college because he believes Caldwell's best volleyball is still ahead of him.

Glenn's only worried about one thing.

"I hope he can survive the winter out there," Glenn said.

Here's a look at the rest of the Dream Team:

Spencer Haly

Corona del Mar

The senior middle blocker turned in his best performance of his career to get his hands on a prize that eluded him in his first three seasons with the Sea Kings — a CIF Southern Section title. The 6-foot-7 Haly hammered 20 kills on 27 attempts, with only one error, and finished with two solo blocks and four block assists, lifting CdM past defending champion Laguna Beach, 23-25, 25-15, 25-14, 25-16, in the Division II final. For the season, he finished with 256 kills and an area-best 113 blocks. Haly earned the CIF Southern Section Division II Player of the Year award and a share of the Pacific Coast League MVP award. Haly is a first-time Dream Team pick.

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Parker Brown

Corona del Mar

The junior outside hitter in the regular-season finale ignited the Sea Kings' magical run to the CIF Southern Section Division II title, the CIF Southern California Regional Division II title and the ESPN RISE national title. The match that Coach Steve Conti said led to all the championships was CdM's five-set victory against Newport Harbor in the Battle of the Bay, where Brown produced a team-high 28 kills to avenge two losses to the Sailors. The 6-foot-3 Brown, who played setter in 2010, became the Sea Kings' top hitter. He led CdM with 353 kills and contributed 136 digs, 36 blocks and 34 aces, earning him All-CIF and second-team all-league honors. Brown is a repeat Dream Team pick.

*

Brennan Anderson

Corona del Mar

The senior outside hitter stood out in the biggest matches, pounding balls and digging balls for the Sea Kings. Anderson is bound for Ohio State, which last month claimed the NCAA title for the first time in the program's history. Anderson is a championship-caliber player and it showed. He finished with 11 kills on 24 attempts, no errors, and 17 digs that propelled CdM to its seventh section title. In the program's first CIF Southern California Regional Division II final, he tied for the team lead with 14 kills to go with 13 digs. Anderson, who finished with 236 kills, 135 digs and 41 blocks, made All-CIF and second-team all-league. Anderson is a first-time Dream Team pick.

*

Evan Dean

Corona del Mar

The senior opposite gave the Sea Kings versatility with his 6-foot-4 frame and ability to hit and block. Dean is more of a middle blocker and he expects to play the middle on the next level at Pepperdine, but Coach Steve Conti preferred Dean on the right side. The move worked in CdM's favor. The Sea Kings continued their dominance in Pacific Coast League play, repeating as undefeated league champions. The Sea Kings have not dropped a league match in six years and Dean played a role in CdM staying perfect. Dean received first-team all-league recognition for the second straight year after recording 193 kills and 32 blocks. Dean is a first-time Dream Team pick.

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Ian Sequeira

Newport Harbor

The senior started at setter for the Sailors, but he is heading to UCLA to play libero. Coach Dan Glenn needed a libero to fill Jackson Carmack's shoes and Sequeira filled in quite admirably, helping Newport Harbor to its third undefeated Sunset League title in the last four seasons. It was Sequeira's job to distribute the ball to the Sailors' go-to hitter, Cody Caldwell, and he set Caldwell up nicely. Sequeira amassed 1,064 assists and contributed 80 digs and 32 blocks. In seven matches, he recorded 49 or more assists, including a career-high 62 against CdM in the Battle of the Bay. He earned first-team all-league honors. Sequeira is a first-time Dream Team pick.

*

Nick Curci

Corona del Mar

The senior setter rotated in and out of the position for the Sea Kings. The team always seemed to be rolling when Curci was the quarterback of the offense. Curci spread the ball around and the opposition struggled keeping up with Sea Kings' balanced attack. He earned first-team All-Pacific Coast League honors after finishing with 459 assists, 78 digs and 17 aces. Curci won CIF Southern Section and CIF Southern California Regional crowns with the boys' soccer and boys' volleyball teams. But Coach Steve Conti said CdM's two-sport star is planning to throw the javelin with the UC Santa Barbara men's track and field program. Curci is a first-time Dream Team pick.

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