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Hard Work Pays Off for Corona del Mar


COSTA MESA — There were grumbles from players when practice began in February because second-year Corona del Mar boys' volleyball Coach Steve Conti decided to push the Sea Kings as hard as he could.

He told them the long, strenuous workouts would pay off when they needed it most.

That time came Wednesday night when Corona del Mar scrapped and clawed its way past an exhausted Calvary Chapel team in the Southern Section Division III semifinals at Estancia High.

The Sea Kings' 7-15, 16-14, 17-15, 15-13 victory took three hours to complete and sends them into a section final for the first time since 1989. The Sea Kings (14-7) will play Santa Ynez, a 14-16, 15-11, 15-13, 15-8 winner over North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake on at 1 p.m Saturday at Cypress College.

Right-side hitter Blair Hoppe had a career-high 37 kills, middle blocker Dennis Alshuler had 21 and outside hitter Tim Andrews had 15. Outside hitter Chris Simmons of Calvary Chapel led all players with 44 kills.

"We've been in a lot of big matches this year and the kids have never quit," Conti said. "I think they had reservations about our conditioning early in the year, but I think if you ask anyone of them now how they feel about it, I don't think they will complain."

Calvary Chapel committed six service errors and four net violations in the first game, but had little trouble putting away the Sea Kings.

But after that, Corona del Mar would not go away.

"We finally started passing and our offense went to work and our defense finally came to play," Hoppe said.

The Sea Kings rallied from a two-point deficit to take the second game, then spotted the Eagles a 7-3 lead in game No. 3 and still managed to win.

"That's the problem with playing a great first game. It forces the other team to play better," Calvary Chapel Coach Chuck Wright said. "We lost that second game and we could have won it. To their credit, they never folded."

It looked pretty good for Corona del Mar in the final game as the Sea Kings marched out to a 7-1 lead, thanks in part to four service errors by Calvary Chapel.

But the Eagles, thanks to four unforced errors on the part of Corona del Mar, rallied to tie the score, 7-7, and eventually took a 12-8 advantage following a pancake save by Chad Meserve that eventually led to a point. Meserve finished with 14 digs.

But back bounced the Sea Kings once again, running off seven of the final eight points scored. An ace serve by middle blocker Bill Messenger knotted the score at 13 and after a number of side outs from both teams, Corona del Mar picked up a kill from Alshuler and then saw the match ended on a mishandled ball by Calvary Chapel.

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