Earlier in the week, Nic Sargeant grew excited about playing on the same boys' volleyball team with archrivals.
When the rosters came out for the 37th annual Dave Mohs Memorial Orange County High School All-Star Match, he and Newport Harbor teammate Clay Carr were on the same side as three Corona del Mar players. An outside event put an end to the Back Bay schools joining forces at Newport Harbor on Friday.
Four players from Huntington Beach couldn't make the best-of-three OC All-Star match for seniors because of prom that night.
"Then we got traded [to] the other side, because of the Huntington guys," Sargeant said. "Then I was like, 'We got to take them down because we lost in the Battle of the Bay.'"
Sargeant made sure he and Carr led the North past the South, which featured CdM middle blocker Tommy Brooks, outside hitter Joey Martino and libero Tommy Casey, and CdM Coach Steve Conti. Sargeant, a libero, earned the MVP award after the North won, 22-25, 25-23, 15-11, allowing Sargeant and Carr to go out as winners on their home court.
"I was just trying to have fun," Sargeant said as one of his coaches, Esperanza's Isaac Owens, yelled, "MVP! MVP!" nearby.
"You don't even realize how good you were playing … until after the game. I didn't even expect to get honored."
Not many expected the North to prevail. The North played without four Huntington Beach players who helped the Oilers finish 40-0 and defend their CIF Southern Section Division 1 and CIF Southern California Regional Division I titles.
To make matters worse for the North, Esperanza's Jake Arnitz, one of the premier players in the country, was out with an ankle injury. Arnitz, an outside hitter bound for UCLA, suffered the setback during Esperanza's five-set loss to CdM in the Southern California Regional Division II final at Cerritos College last week.
Brooks, Martino, Casey and Conti didn't have to see Arnitz on the floor again. For Brooks, Martino and Casey, capping their CdM careers with another win inside their rival's gym seemed likely.
The trio won at Newport Harbor in the Battle of the Bay during the regular-season finale last month. The three returned to Newport Harbor last week because CdM's gym was unavailable during the Sea Kings' home match in the semifinals of the Southern California Regional Division II playoffs. The Sea Kings still swept South Pasadena, en route to claiming the program's second Southern California Regional Division II crown.
On Friday, the threesome found itself back at Newport Harbor, the site of the OC All-Star match. Brooks, Martino and Casey were unable to go out with a bang.
Martino contributed four kills and Brooks three. Carr led all locals with nine kills. Conti tried to lead Brooks, Martino and Casey to one more victory before they moved on to college.
"I don't know if you call it an upset," Conti said with a grin. "[The North players] certainly played … their best game in that third game. They were able to go back there and block a bunch of balls. [It's] kind of hard to play from behind, especially in a short game like that. I thought we made it kind of interesting at the end, though. [We made it] respectable.
"We just wanted honor all these kids out here."
The OC All-Star festivities, which included a girls' match, also honored Emma Griffith, a sophomore from Estancia. A year ago, Griffith was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that starts in the bone. Donations to support Griffith and her battle against cancer can be made at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/emmagriffith.
Griffith's mother, Jenny Evans, played in the OC All-Star match 26 years ago. Getting to see players like Evans, a standout at Newport Harbor and UCLA, is what attracts so many to the OC All-Star event.
"It's a privilege to be in this match, you know, just the history behind it, with Misty May and April Ross … playing in it, it's a pretty special event," said CdM Coach Steve Astor, who coached the South girls' team that featured CdM opposite Jules Pouch and Newport Harbor middle block Carolyn Bockrath in a match the North won, 18-25, 25-23, 15-11.
"It's definitely an honor to coach in a match like this, and growing up watching it myself, seeing my older brother [Craig] play in it. It was really fun personally to get to coach Jules again. That was the highlight."