There was plenty of action and competitiveness at the Coastal Athletic League's annual boys' volleyball tournament for seventh- and eighth-graders from local schools Nov. 8 and 9.
The tournament was played at Harbor Day School's Blatt Gymnasium under the excellent direction of Harbor Day's Mike and Pam Coleman. The playoff format is based on the results of two months of league play featuring TeWinkle, Costa Mesa, Corona del Mar, Ensign, Harbor Day as well as Huntington Beach's Sowers and Dwyer.
The Coastal League volleyball experience is always something that these players remember forever. Representing your school and playing in this tournament in front of an enthusiastic crowd, can create lifelong memories.
The seventh-grade semifinal matches featured top-seeded Ensign against Sowers and CdM facing Harbor Day.
Ensign and CdM swept the semis to set up a "mini Battle of the Bay" for the championship. Ensign, coached by former USA National team player Sherry Fenn, won the final, 25-13, 15-17, 16-14, but had to rally after falling behind 13-6 in the final game.
With Willy Axton's serving and hitting, the setting of Jantzen Fenn, and the all-around play of Cole Pender, the Ensign rally was one that these boys will long remember.
CdM was led by the setting of Paul Vrebalovich and the ball control of Patrick Wynn as well as the blocking and hitting from Kevin Kobrine and Tae Le.
The Harbor Day semifinalists were coached by Kim Coleman and Mary Mix. They were led throughout the season by the setting of Evan Park, the hitting of Adam Steinke, and the all-around play from Rory Sever.
The eighth-grade semifinal featured top-seeded Corona del Mar against Harbor Day and Dwyer playing against Ensign. Ensign, coached by the renowned volleyball coach Kari Rush, lost in three games to a very strong Dwyer team. Coach Rush felt that the defense of Connor Kincaid, the all-around play from Max Toffel, as well as the leadership from Captain Paxton Miller allowed for their successes. She also acknowledged the serving from Baron Banta and blocking from Toni Vasi as keys.
Corona del Mar defeated Harbor Day, 22-25, 25-9, 15-12. Harbor Day played at a very high level led by the play of Chase Hall, John Holland, and Vinson Chiu. The hosts were coached by Kim Coleman and Pam Coleman.
The eighth-grade final was a match of two very physical teams, Dwyer and CdM. CdM, coached by Mike Pearson and Joe Sloate, pulled out a championship win, 22-25, 25-20, 15-13. Jake Pearson, who had been injured all season, appeared as serving specialist which was an inspiration for Corona, who was able to offset Dwyer's very talented Trent Williams. CdM was led by the setting from Danny Rogers, back-row skills from Grant Shaw, hitting from Wilson Lubeck and Fritz Miller as well as the all-around play from Mitch Haly.
When former players are asked about things that they remember in their volleyball careers, the junior high tournament at Harbor Day is always on the list. A special thanks to Mike Coleman at Harbor Day for his organization and dedication in making this a memorable event.
CHARLIE BRANDE is a local club volleyball coach and a former head volleyball coach at Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar.