Eagles end season with win

COSTA MESA — Paul Muñoz threw his roster in the trash when he completed his third season as coach of the Estancia High boys' volleyball team.

The season was not a waste, though.

The Eagles closed things out at home Wednesday with a 19-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-19 victory against cross-town rival Costa Mesa. The win allowed Estancia to split the two-match series with the Mustangs in Orange Coast League play.

Neither team is moving on to the CIF Southern Section playoffs next week, but this season they each showed signs of getting there in the future.

The Eagles finished 3-7 in league, earning one more victory in league than they did last season. Those two league wins last season came against the Mustangs, so they proved they could beat someone other than Costa Mesa this year.

The Mustangs actually won this year. That is a huge improvement for a program, which went winless in league last season.

The Mustangs prevailed twice in league and finished 2-8. Jeff Weihert, in his first season as the Costa Mesa boys' coach, has his team believing it can compete.

"Guys didn't really win anything at all last year. Nothing, not even in [the nonleague portion of the schedule]," said Weihert, adding that he led the Mustangs to five overall wins.

Muñoz said his Eagles won five matches as well.

"This is the most wins we've had in the past three years, with the [nonleague] and regular season [schedules] combined," Muñoz said.

Muñoz expected more from his Eagles. Making the postseason for the first time under his watch was his goal for the team.

The Eagles needed to place in the top three in league to earn an automatic playoff berth. They fell short, only beating Godinez and Costa Mesa in the second part of league and the Eagles finished in fourth place, behind Saddleback, which went 6-4 in league.

"Our focus was to make CIF and that's something we haven't done [in six years] here at this school," Muñoz said. "We would've had to have beat Saddleback, beat Godinez and take care of Mesa [to make the playoffs]. What would've had set [up a playoff berth for us] was if we [had] beat Calvary [Chapel], too."

Estancia met two of the needs. The last one ensured that the Mustangs wouldn't sweep the rivalry.

Dylan Gaitan, an outside hitter, made sure the Eagles went out as winners. The senior recorded a match-high 18 kills, most of them coming in the final three sets.

After Costa Mesa took the opening set, Gaitan said the Eagles stopped the bickering, which tends to impede their start in matches.

"We kind of just said, 'Hey! You know what? We've got to come together," Gaitan said. "We all realized in order to win we just had to be a team. We just came back."

Gaitan has been one of the players Muñoz said he has relied on since he lost Anthony Pham, a second-team all-league libero last season, to an injury.

Gaitan raised his level of play as did Riley Stack, who finished with 10 kills.

Then there was Lucas Pereira, who used his 6-foot-4 frame in the middle to alter some of the Mustangs' shots, and help the Eagles rally.

Muñoz said most of his roster is comprised of first-year volleyball players, who are only improving.

The Mustangs are just as inexperienced, with only two seniors. One talented player is sophomore outside hitter Sean Comer, who tallied 12 kills.

Weihert is counting on players like Comer to lead Costa Mesa to the playoffs next season.

"I think it's doable," said Weihert, whose team finished fifth in league. "We've got a lot of young talent coming up from the JV team. I think we'll be good in the next four years."


Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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