The recent Coastal Athletic League boys' volleyball playoffs were an exciting and well organized event as always. Hosted by Harbor Day School under the guidance of Mike Coleman, the Coastal League tournament is an experience that these young athletes treasure for many, many years. The excitement of the event coupled with the well-attended and intense feel that Harbor Day's Blass Gymnasium brings, create memories that are lasting and sweet.
The Coastal Athletic League is for the junior high school teams from Ensign, Corona del Mar, Costa Mesa, TeWinkle, Harbor Day as well as Huntington Beach's Dwyer and Sowers. Each season, the teams play a round-robin league play to determine seeds for the tournament. This is one of the first times that these young athletes can play in matches representing their school which makes this very special. It is also a sampling of the future high school events between Newport Harbor, Corona del Mar, Estancia, Costa Mesa, Edison and Huntington Beach.
The semifinal matches were outstanding. In the seventh-grade division, top-seeded Dwyer battled Ensign who entered as the fourth seed with Dwyer sneaking out with a 27-25, 18-25, 18-16 victory. Ensign was led by the all around play of Max Toffel.
The other seventh-grade semi featured third-seeded Harbor Day versus second-seeded Corona del Mar. CdM won the three-game thriller, 25-16, 24-26, 15-12. Setter Vinson Chiu led Harbor Day especially with his serving while John Holland, Chase Hall and Ryan Shean were also major contributors. CdM's dominant middles, Fritz Miller and Jake Pearson, provided too much firepower. Setter Danny Rogers delivered with efficiency.
The eighth-grade semifinals were also well played with a packed house. Top-seeded Corona del Mar beat Sowers in two games, while Dwyer survived a battle with Harbor Day, 24-26, 25-23, 17-15. Harbor Day was led by the all-around play of William Hunter, the setting of Robbie Rosoff, and the middle hitting of Jacob Flaxman. Harbor Day was co-coached by Mike Coleman and by former Harbor Day setter Kim Coleman who also set for two national championship teams at Corona del Mar High and at UCLA.
In the seventh-grade finals, Corona del Mar avenged a three-game loss in league to win the championship in two games. With Miller and Pearson leading the way, the Sea Weed squad featured the all-around play of Will Gehl, Wilson Lubeck, Tyler Flood, and John Fenmore. They were co-coached by Mike Pearson and Joe Sloate.
The eighth-grade final was a battle with Dwyer battling back in Game 2 to win and force a third game. This was only the first game that CdM had lost all season long. Corona rallied to win the last game, 15-8. CdM featured an extremely talented combination of athletes. Head coach Bob Ctvrtlik called this team "names who will be on the volleyball scene for years to come." They featured the hitting of Matt Ctvrtlik, Brian Chelf, Mika Grasso, Jack Denning, Nick Premer, Karl Donovan, Garrett White and Mark Thompson, as well as the setting of Sam Kobrine and Shane Gooding. The back-court play of TJ Hunter and Jason Neiger was outstanding.
The CdM coaching staff was a family affair with Olympic gold medalist Bob Ctvrtlik as the head and his sons, Joe and Erik, were the assistants. Bob, a hall of famer, had coached both Joe and Erik when they played for the Corona del Mar junior high team. Both play for Coach Steve Conti's CdM High volleyball team. Joe recently committed to play volleyball at Stanford.
Coach Conti must be very pleased to see the success that the junior high teams have achieved. Unfortunately, Garrett White is the son of Edison football coach, Dave White, so Garrett will attend Edison for high school. Garrett's dad was not able to attend the championship game because Edison was playing Fountain Valley in the Battle for the Bell. The next morning, Garrett and his dad flew to Las Vegas where Garrett's brother, Hunter, played football for Boise State. Quite a schedule!
Carden Hall completed its Tri-Way League girls' volleyball season two weeks ago with a championship. The junior high league features 12 private junior high school teams from throughout Orange County that play a round-robin league to determine their seed in the playoffs. The team from Carden Hall played in the championship match against Heritage Oak from Yorba Linda, which was the top seed in the tournament. After losing the first game, Coach Monica Stewart calmed the team and won the next two for the championship.
Carden was led by Remy Wilson, Katie Condino, Kinley Ohland, Ellie Hagadorn, and Katie Kearns who all were on the team that won the championship last year. Callie Govaars, who is the sister of Newport Harbor volleyball assistant coach Taylor Govaars, was the only seventh-grader in the starting lineup. Brennan Cuttrell, Jaynie Hexberg, Elle Zielinski, Skyler Gullick, and Hannah Schubert were all contributors, while sixth-graders Devyn Copeman and Sarah Graham gained valuable experience for the future.
Coach Monica Stewart knows a lot about success. As a high school player at Corona del Mar, she was Monica Park and a player on two CIF championships. Carden Hall is very fortunate for her knowledge and leadership.
Playing in the Tri-Way league is Pegasus School. Corona del Mar's Jessica Harris plays for Pegasus and is an extremely talented player.
Carden Hall beat Pegasus in its trip to the championship.
CHARLIE BRANDE is a former head coach of Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar high schools.