Huntington Beach fans celebrate as their team scores a point during their game against Loyola in the CIF-SS Division 1 boys volleyball championships at Santiago College in Orange on Saturday.

Huntington Beach tested, but comes out on top


ORANGE – It had been nearly 20 years since the last CIF-SS finals appearance for the Huntington Beach boys volleyball program.

Saturday night, it might have felt that long for the Oilers to finally end the drought.

The fourth-seeded Oilers dropped two of the first three sets, the first two of the playoffs, but found enough resolve to rally to win the match in five, 26-28, 25-23, 19-25, 25-22, 15-10, in the Division 1 final against Loyola of Los Angeles on Saturday night at Santiago Canyon College.

The title is the first for the Oilers (31-2) since the 1994 team that won the Division 1 title. The Oilers also won in 1993.

"We never quit," Huntington Beach coach Craig Pazanti said. "We had no rhythm for three games, I don't know how we won the second game.

"We started to pass a little bit better, had a big emotional lift by (junior middle blocker) Drake Evans, blocking some balls in the middle. That's kind of the whole thing with this team, if someone doesn't play well, we got another guy. He came in and blocked some balls, got a couple of kills for us ... he was a huge energy lift."

In the fifth, the Oilers, full of confidence, jumped out to a 5-2 lead, forcing Loyola into a timeout. Later, TJ DeFalco dropped in a perfectly placed ace in the back corner for an 8-3 lead.

The Cubs wouldn't go easy, however. They got to within 12-10, but the Oilers scored the final three points, a kill from DeFalco, a block from Evans and DeFalco again on championship point to wrap up the comeback.

"Once we got game four, I thought we had a pretty good shot," Pazanti said. "We had some different matchups in game four and I thought if we could get off to a good start in the fifth game, then we would be in good shape."

DeFalco, a sophomore outside hitter, led the Oilers with 26 kills. Andrew TenBrink had 10. Brendan Sander and Zach Gates had nine apiece.

"We knew it wasn't going to be an easy sweep," DeFalco said. "We knew it was going to be a fight. We had to keep telling ourselves that we had to keep fighting back. We found the urgency. We had to get it done for our seniors."

Matt Butler had 51 assists.

Not only had the Oilers breezed through the playoffs, winning all of their matches by sweep, they hadn't dropped a set in a regular best-of 5 match since March 18.

That streak was snapped in the first set by the Cubs.

"That's the best serving team we've faced all year," Pazanti said of the Cubs. "They came out and took us out of what we wanted to do. Usually Matt (Butler) can make up for a lot of that stuff, but they (the Cubs) went at it jump-serving and put us in some problems. It was awesome that we were able to hang in there and kept our heads up high."

State regional pairings will be released Sunday afternoon. The Oilers will compete in Division I starting Tuesday night.

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