It has become one of the signature events in Southern California high school sports — the regular-season boys' volleyball match between 11-time Southern Section champion Los Angeles Loyola and six-time champion Manhattan Beach Mira Costa.
It attracts so many fans each year from the South Bay and elsewhere that the match no longer can be held at either school's gym.
On Friday night, Loyola Marymount's Gersten Pavilion was the venue, and a crowd of more than 2,000 was treated to a caliber of volleyball that some college teams couldn't duplicate.
To no one's surprise, it took five grueling games and nearly two hours to complete, with Mira Costa, ranked No. 1 in Southern Section Division 1, prevailing over No. 3-ranked Loyola, 23-25, 25-18, 23-25, 25-21, 15-12.
Harvard-bound DJ White had 20 kills and standout junior Chris Orenic had 13 kills for Mira Costa. Juniors Alex Slaught and Nick Porterfield contributed 15 kills apiece for Loyola.
The schools boast a who's-who of volleyball alumni, from Sinjin Smith (Loyola) to the Dodd brothers, Ted, Mike and Matt (Mira Costa). Almost half of Loyola's team lives in the South Bay, and Mira Costa Coach Mike Ninnis said it's not uncommon to spot a Loyola player or two surfing at the beach.
"The first question I get from everybody every year is, 'When's the Loyola match?'" Ninnis said "It's important for high school volleyball. You've get some of the best prospects in the nation, it's public vs. private. It's a great atmosphere for fans, players and coaches."
It all lends itself to an atmosphere that is nothing short of electric, from the players' intensity trying to earn bragging rights to the wacky cheers of the crowd trying to outwit each other.
For Mira Costa's Orenic, who rose up in the fifth game to make a huge impact, his experience was unforgettable.
"This rivalry has been going on for countless years, many more than I'm alive, and I'm just glad to be a part of it," he said. "It's so exhilarating going five games with them. It's just so fun, and winning is even better."
Loyola is the two-time defending Division 1 champion and defeated Mira Costa in last year's championship match. The Cubs struggled with their serves all night, but it was the hitting of White and Orenic that keyed the victory.