LOS ANGELES — Two high school boys' volleyball teams running very different systems met in the opening round of the CIF Southern California Regional Division II playoffs Tuesday night.
The game plan for host Eagle Rock High was easy to see. The Eagles tried to get the ball to their 6-foot-4 senior outside hitter, Stewart Ramirez, as much as possible.
Corona del Mar responded with a little bit of Joey Martino, a touch of Ryan Moss, a sprinkle of Tommy Brooks. Add a pinch of Augie Miller and Kevin Fults and the Sea Kings showed the recipe of why they are so dangerous.
In a muggy gym with no air conditioning, top-seeded CdM made quick work of No. 8-seeded Eagle Rock. All five of those players had at least five kills as the Sea Kings swept, 25-19, 25-15, 25-17, in 70 minutes.
CdM moves on to play host to No. 4-seeded South Pasadena in a Division II semifinal Thursday night at 7 p.m. The match will be played at Newport Harbor, CdM athletic director Don Grable said, because the CdM gym is being used for a middle school awards night.
The second trip to Los Angeles in a week was more successful for Corona del Mar (28-3). After falling in five sets in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal at Los Angeles Loyola last week, the Sea Kings weren't even sure if they would qualify for the regional playoffs. But they found out Sunday that they not only made it for the first time since winning the regional title in 2011, but they also are the top seed in Division II.
CdM Coach Steve Conti knows the road will not be easy. Eagle Rock (35-11), which had a seven-match winning streak snapped, was the Los Angeles City Section Division 2 champion. South Pasadena is the Southern Section Division 3 champion.
"If we get by that, chances are we'll see another Southern Section champion [Division 2 champion Esperanza] or a San Diego Section champion [La Costa Canyon]," Conti said. "I think these teams are going to play like champions. [But] I think it's also good for us to get back on the court and get a 'W.' Last week was painful, but we are fortunate and blessed that we have a chance to compete as a team again."
The Sea Kings showed their well-balanced attack against Eagle Rock. Martino had nine kills, with Moss and Brooks tallying eight each. Miller had six kills, and Fults five.
Sophomore setter Matt Ctvrtlik had 32 assists, three block assists and six digs. Senior libero Tommy Casey also had six digs, and three service aces.
"I think it's great," said Brooks, a senior, of the team's balance. "It's a lot better than having one guy, all the kills by one guy. It really shows how much of a team we are. I think that's the biggest thing with this team, that we really are a true team."
Ramirez had a match-high 19 kills for Eagle Rock, and senior Jordan Banez added five. Coach Tim Bergeron said that Banez is his only club player. Ramirez, who helped the volleyball team win back-to-back City Section titles each of the past two years, also helped the Eagle Rock boys' basketball team win its first City Section title in program history this year.
Bergeron said Ramirez is a four-sport athlete who also plays club hockey and came out for the Eagles football team this year. He tried to keep Eagle Rock in Tuesday's match early, earning nine of his kills in the opening set, which was tied as late as 11-11. But the Sea Kings were able to pull away.
"I thought we did a good job coming out strong," Bergeron said. "The Vegas odds were definitely not in our favor, right? As the match goes on, it's not about one, two, three guys. This team, Corona, has balance. They can attack from a lot of different areas. And also, it's true volleyball. The serve receive is very good, the setting is very good. It makes it difficult for us to know where's the ball going to go."
The second set was tied at 9-9 before CdM pulled away. The Sea Kings weren't as generous in the third, jumping out to an early advantage before earning the sweep.
As the match went on, Ramirez, who had many of his attempts from the back row, began missing more balls long.
"He did a really good job," Conti said of Ramirez. "We had a really difficult time slowing him down in Game One. Part of it was that their set was a little bit higher, so our timing on our block was early. We kept on getting deflections on the way down … You've got to be able to make adjustments on the fly. There's not a lot of time to maybe capture film on these teams, because you have no idea who you could be playing. We didn't even know we qualified until Sunday. But I thought as we were able to slow our block down and maybe be a little more patient, we were able to get some blocks, get some touches, may have forced him into some unforced errors as well."
Now the Sea Kings are two wins away from the second Southern California regional title in program history. And motivation definitely high for the squad.
"I think it definitely offers a chance to get revenge," Brooks said. "We're not going to be playing Loyola, but we have a chance to get redemption from our loss [last] Wednesday."