Corona del Mar High's football team lifts the CIF championship plaque.

Corona del Mar High's football team lifts the CIF championship plaque. (Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

As is often the case in sports, the Newport-Mesa landscape in 2011 offered championship celebrations and near-misses by handfuls of local teams.

Similarly diverse among the top 10 sports stories of the year, as selected by the Daily Pilot sports staff, was the opportunity to ponder both what was and what might have been.

Finally, the achievement of myriad milestones should forever make 2011 a year that will linger for a long time to come.

Upon reflection, here's a closer look:


1 – Corona del Mar High football: The Sea Kings won the CIF Southern Section Southern Division championship and finished 12-2.

First-year coach Scott Meyer guided the team, which had been to the section semifinals two of the previous three years, to the program's third CIF title, culminating in a 14-13 win over Pacific Coast League rival Beckman at Orange Coast College. The title-game triumph, secured when the Sea Kings stuffed a two-point-conversion-run attempt with seven seconds remaining, avenged a 42-37 loss to the Patriots in a regular-season-ending showdown for the league title.

CdM was led offensively by senior quarterback Brent Lawson (2,519 passing yards and 27 touchdown passes), senior tailback Erik Fisher (1,697 rushing yards and 18 TDs) and senior receiver Josh Giger (946 receiving yards and 10 TDs). Lawson, the PCL Offensive Player of the Year, set school records for single-season passing yards, TD passes and completions (153).

Defensively, the Sea Kings relied most heavily on the senior linebacking quartet of Aaron White (17 sacks among his 98 tackles), Frasier Anderson (a team-best 100 tackles), Grant Garrett and David Moore.

The 12 wins matched a school single-season record initially achieved by the 1989 CIF champions (12-0-2) and the 2011 squad's 476 points were tops in school single-season annals.


2 – Corona del Mar High boys' volleyball: Coach Steve Conti's Sea Kings claimed the ESPN-RISE mythical national championship after winning CIF Southern Section Division II and Southern California Regional Division II crowns to finish 32-4.

Senior Spencer Haly, a 6-foot-7 middle blocker bound for Stanford, was the Southern Section Division II Player of the Year and he shared MVP honors in the Pacific Coast League.

Senior outside hitter Brennan Anderson (bound for Ohio State) and junior outside hitter Parker Brown were both All-CIF honorees and joined Haly, senior opposite Evan Dean (Pepperdine) and senior setter Nick Curci on the Newport-Mesa Dream Team.


3 – UC Irvine baseball: The Anteaters defeated UCLA to win the Los Angeles Regional and were one strike away from advancing to the College World Series, before No. 1 national seed Virginia rallied to win, 3-2, in the deciding game of the best-of-three Super Regional in Charlottesville.

Junior right-hander Matt Summers earned All-American honors and was the Anteaters' fourth straight Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year, before signing with the Minnesota Twins as a fourth-round draft pick.

Senior third baseman and closer Brian Hernandez, a two-time first-team all-conference choice, was the Big West Defensive Player of the Year who was also an offensive catalyst and finished with 12 saves and three pitching wins.

Senior left fielder Drew Hillman, a former two-time All-American at Orange Coast College, signed with the Phillies, who drafted him in the 18th round, while senior outfielder Sean Madigan, junior shortstop D.J. Crumlich and junior catcher Ronnie Shaeffer (MVP of the regional) were also among the keys for Coach Mike Gillespie, who earned his 900th Division I victory in 2011.

UCI played in its third super regional in five seasons, finished 43-18, and, Gillespie said, came as close to reaching its potential as any team he had ever coached.