Later this week, the Palisades High boys’ volleyball team will have a chance to prove it is the best team in Southern California.
The top-seeded Dolphins left no doubt that they are the best team in the City Section, downing second-seeded Woodland Hills El Camino Real in four sets, 23-25, 25-18, 25-20, 25-14, in the Open Division final Saturday night at Birmingham High in Lake Balboa.
Palisades (41-2) not only captured its third conseuctive section crown and 16th since the sport was sanctioned in 1974, it set a school record for victories and staked its claim as the most dominant team in City annals under the rally scoring format.
“This is the best team I’ve ever coached in terms of the level at which they play, the consistency and their ability to make complicated in-game adjustments,” Palisades coach Carlos Gray said of the Dolphins’ fourth title in five years. “There’s no substitute for good old-fashioned athleticism.”
CIF regional seedings will be released Sunday and the Dolphins are hopeful of being No. 2 behind Southern Section Division I champion Newport Harbor, which edged Palisades 20-25, 25-22, 15-12, in the finals of the Best of the West Tournament in early March. The regionals open Tuesday.
“We’re all confident about regionals,” Ohio State-bound middle blocker Justin Howard said. “It’s not going to be given to us — it will be much harder than this — but if we can play clean volleyball we can do it.”
The Conquistadores (33-9-1) pushed Palisades to five sets in the semifinals last spring and rallied from a 23-21 deficit to draw first blood Saturday, becoming the only City team to take a set off the Dolphins this season.
After Akhil Tangutur’s serve clipped the net and dropped over to level the match at one set apiece, Mason Mallory hit through a block to end the third set and the Dolphins raced to a 17-4 lead in the fourth before winning on its third match point.
Carson beat Venice 24-26, 25-23, 25-21, 25-9 to win the Division I title, Jordan upset No. 1 Verdugo Hills 27-29, 25-22, 25-23, 25-18 to capture the Division II title and Vaughn beat Roosevelt 26-24, 18-25, 25-15, 25-17 in the Division III final.
Palisades swept Chatsworth in the finals to win the City’s inaugural Open Division title last year, when they lost to eventual regional champion Corona del Mar in the semifinals.
Newport Harbor wins Southern Section title
Dayne Chalmers had a match-high 20 kills to lead Newport Harbor past Manhattan Beach Mira Costa 25-20, 25-23, 15-25, 25-21 at Cerritos College in the Southern Section Division 1 championship match.
Joe Karlous added 45 assists for the Sailors (36-1). Caden Garrido had 11 kills and Jack Higgs had nine while Ryan Schroeder had a team-high 14 digs defensively.
Newport Harbor suffered its first loss of last season to rival Corona del Mar in five sets in the Division 1 title match last season. The Sailors had multiple sources of motivation, including the impending retirement of their head coach Rocky Ciarelli.
“There’s no doubt that they were thinking about that all the time,” Ciarelli said of his team looking back on last year’s section final. “They wanted to get back here and win.”