Sean Kelly and Loyola showcase their talent in sweep over rival Mira Costa
Loyola High’s tower of terror took flight, the 6-foot-7 Sean Kelly’s full momentum bending into a spike that had brutal intentions. Rising in his way was another giant, Mira Costa’s 6-foot-8 setter Tread Rosenthal, attempting a block. No matter.
Kelly smacked the ball so hard off Rosenthal’s face that it doubled over the Texas transfer in midair, Kelly’s Loyola teammates walking away with mouths agape.
In another era of the timeless Loyola-Mira Costa rivalry, of clean-shaven Cubs walking in wearing suits and ties and Mustangs entering with mustaches and Hawaiian shirts, that deafening first-set spike might’ve warranted a skirmish. Before club volleyball emerged, Loyola coach Michael Boehle said, these two teams would walk into the gym hating each other.
“The tactics that were played — I’d get up from a timeout,” Boehle recalled, “and there’d be Gatorade all over the seat. Just stupid stuff like that.”
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But times have changed in the era of club volleyball, where a majority of Loyola and Mira Costa players have grown up playing with one another. Kelly and Mustangs star pin hitter Victor Loiola, in fact, play together on the U.S. U19 junior national team. So Kelly ducked toward the net after the point and exchanged a quick handshake with Rosenthal.
A timeless rivalry has become a game among buddies rather than a war of enemies. But behind a rollicking student section that stampeded a box of cookies into the hardwood at host-site Loyola Marymount, Loyola swept Mira Costa 25-14, 25-19, 25-19 in a dominant win — proving the spirit of a historic game is more alive than ever.
“Probably the all-time best,” Boehle said postgame.
Long the Cubs’ home site for the Mira Costa-Loyola rivalry match, the game hadn’t been played at LMU since 2016 thanks to scheduling conflicts and COVID-19. Players have asked him every year, Boehle said, if the game was returning. And the community joy was evident.
Loyola kids set up a tailgate in the parking lot pregame, complete with a mini-barbece. And they came with force amid a crowd of over 1,500, cries for Mira Costa to “hit the show-ers!” coming as early as the second set.
The energy was “unreal,” Kelly said. And humble as he was postgame, Loyola’s “Captain America” — as the student section dubbed him — put together a similarly unreal performance. After his exclamation-point spike in a dominant first set, he went off for eight kills in the second, flying across the court for shots from the back row.
“It didn’t look like he was playing that hard, even … he was very within himself,” Mira Costa coach Avery Drost said.
Drost’s message to his team throughout the week playing at LMU, he said, was not to think about the game’s narrative. The tale. And ultimately, the Mustangs didn’t look like the best version of themselves Friday, as serves flew long and setter-hitter connections were consistently out of sync — leaving the story of the rivalry’s new era to Loyola.
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