The Huntington Beach High boys' volleyball team weaved its way through tough competition to earn a spot Monday in the Orange County Championships Division 1 final at Edison High. In the title game, a hotly contested one against San Clemente, the top-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division 1, the fifth-ranked Oilers came up just shy of handing the Tritons their first loss.
San Clemente held off the Oilers in four sets, 25-22, 25-23, 20-25, 25-19, to win the crown.
Senior setter Matt Butler had four kills and 50 assists. In the kills department, sophomore outside hitter TJ DeFalco had 15, senior outside hitter Andrew TenBrink 14, senior opposite Zach Gates 12, and junior middle blocker Ryan Morrissey eight.
Butler and TenBrink were named to the all-tournament team. San Clemente's Lucas Yoder was named tourney MVP.
Huntington (10-2), which was coming off a fifth-place finish at the Best of the West tournament in Poway, an event won by San Clemente, reached Monday's final by sweeping Dana Hills Saturday, 25-19, 25-23, 25-23. The Oilers started the tourney with a 3-0 sweep of El Toro, then defeated Corona del Mar, 3-2, in the quarterfinals.
"Considering the changes that we have to the lineup over the past week, due to Brendan Sander being out with a back injury, I am really proud of the guys," Huntington Coach Craig Pazanti said. "We have not really had a chance to practice much with the group that was playing out there at the end of the tournament.
"I believe we can learn something from this loss, both in our ability to make in-game adjustments and the way we prepare. We beat a couple good teams this weekend, but now it's time to refocus our effort on defending our Sunset League title."
Huntington begins its Sunset title defense Friday at home against Fountain Valley at 5:45 p.m.
In the Division 2 championship final Monday, JSerra swept Claremont, 25-20, 25-22.
In Division 1 tournament action, Edison defeated Orange Lutheran to reach the top eight, but the Chargers were eliminated from title contention following losses to San Clemente, Laguna Beach and Corona del Mar.
Also in Division 1, Fountain Valley went 2-2 and finished 13th. The Barons dropped a three-set opening match to Dana Hills, and a tough, five-set match to Newport Harbor, then finished with three-set victories over El Toro and Servite.
"Even though we lost our first couple matches, we gained a lot of confidence in the fact when we are executing we can compete with anyone," Fountain Valley Coach Todd Hansen said.
The Barons (5-3) turned in a strong performance Tuesday at San Clemente, but dropped the nonleague match to the Tritons, 28-26, 25-20, 25-16.
"We lost a tough match," Hansen said. "After losing the opening set, we played well in the second set as well until San Clemente pulled away at the end to defeat us. In the final set we ran out of gas against a very tough blocking team."
Fountain Valley starts its Sunset League season at Huntington on Friday. The Barons open play Monday at the Easter Invitational in Las Vegas.
"As a coach, you hope to get a few league matches under your belt before you go against the top-ranked team [Huntington Beach] in your league," Hansen said. "But, we have to face them eventually so we will prepare the best we can and see if we can come up with a game plan that will help us succeed on Friday."
Marina tied for fifth place with a 1-3 record in Division 2 competition.
"The tournament went very well, overall," Edison Coach Trent Jackson said. "Both the division finals were competitive and high-level. The Division 1 final [Huntington Beach-San Clemente] was some of the best high school volleyball I have seen in my coaching career. Both teams ran a quick offense, and both teams played hard. It was a fun match to watch."
Edison opened Sunset League play Tuesday at Newport Harbor and was edged in five sets by the Sailors, who won, 21-25, 25-23, 25-18, 23-25, 15-13.
On Monday, Marina traveled to Mission Viejo for a nonleague match and knocked off the Diablos, 25-22, 25-20, 25-12. Junior outside hitter Logan Atkeson had 15 kills for the Vikings, who improved to 8-6 overall.