DANA POINT — A couple of times during the first set, when Corona del Mar High began to gain momentum, Dana Hills called a timeout. While the coaches addressed their players, the PA announcer addressed the fans about a handful of illegally parked cars in the Dana Hills lot.
No one budged from their seat the first time, believing they could get away with it. They probably didn't expect to stay long on Saturday.
The second time, the mention of a tow truck forced a couple of fans to leave the gym to move their vehicle. The problem was the cars blocked the school buses wanting to get a head start out of the parking lot.
The No. 2-seeded Sea Kings made quick work of the Dolphins, sweeping them, 25-16, 25-22, 25-20, to advance to the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 boys' volleyball playoffs. This marks CdM's first trip to this stage in four years in the premier division, and it will face the same program it faced in 2010.
That team is Los Angeles Loyola. This time, the Sea Kings (27-2) travel to No. 3 Loyola (23-3) on Wednesday. The Cubs swept Trabuco Hills, setting up another semifinal showdown against CdM.
"We've played there," CdM Coach Steve Conti said. "We just haven't played there for a CIF semifinal before."
Conti said he will definitely talk to his team about the last semifinal meeting between CdM and Loyola, the one the Cubs swept the Sea Kings in four years ago. Back then, CdM was the No. 2 seed, and Loyola, the No. 3 seed, went on to claim the Division I title, the program's fifth crown under Coach Michael Boehle.
Since then, Loyola hasn't won a section title. The private school has reached the Division 1 finale in each of the past two seasons, falling every time. The Sea Kings look to end the Cubs' streak of section championship appearances, and make the boys' championship for the 11th time in Conti's 19 years in charge.
Corona del Mar has already topped Loyola this year, beating the Cubs, 22-25, 25-23, 25-11, 25-21, at home on April 30. Many expected the two sides to face one another three weeks later.
"They're a great team," CdM outside hitter Joey Martino said of the Cubs. "We played them [recently], and we know they didn't play their best match then, so they're going to come out harder next time.
"We played there last year [during the regular season] and we lost pretty badly. This time, I know it's going to be a more competitive match."
The Sea Kings have played at Loyola three times under Conti's watch, and every time they have come home with a loss. The next affair is sure to be a battle.
No one has challenged CdM in the postseason yet. The team swept its third opponent, and it pulled it off with a balanced attack, Martino finishing with 13 kills, middle blocker Tommy Brooks with 12 kills, outside hitter Ryan Moss with nine kills, middle blocker Augie Miller with seven kills and opposite Kevin Fults with six kills. Martino added eight digs, Moss five digs, Miller four block assists and Fults two solo blocks.
Matt Ctvrtlik, CdM's setter, is distributing the ball to everyone on the court. He amassed 41 assists, to go with two service aces, two digs, two block assists and one kill.
Before the quarterfinal match, Ctvrtlik and the rest of the team learned it wouldn't be playing at home in the semifinals, if CdM moved past Dana Hills (21-12). Don Grable, CdM's athletic director, accidentally let that info slip out.
"I already knew we were," Conti said of having to play on the road, because Loyola won the coin flip on Friday to host the semifinal match. "I hadn't told [my players] yet, because I wanted them to focus on this [quarterfinal match], and be in the moment. It's easy for teenagers to kind of think ahead."