Corona del Mar boys volleyball team member Justin Tucker, center left, cheers after the team received the POWERADE FAB 50 ESPN Rise National championship trophy on Friday at Corona del Mar High School.

ESPN award caps CdM's storybook season


NEWPORT BEACH – The final chapter was added Friday to what had already been a remarkable storybook season for the Corona del Mar boys volleyball team.

The Sea Kings, winners of the CIF-SS Division 2 title and CIF Southern California Regional title, were officially awarded the Powerade Fab 50 ESPN Rise National championship trophy at a lunchtime celebration at Corona del Mar High.

CdM finished the season with a record of 32-4.

"This is one of the more special moments that I have been a part of in the 16 years here," CdM coach Steve Conti said.

Conti has led the Sea Kings to five CIF titles in his tenure.

In attendance were Newport-Mesa School Board president Walt Davenport, school board member Karen Yelsey, assistant superintendent Chuck Hinman, assemblyman Donald Wagner and Newport Beach mayor Michael Henn.

Alumni Kevin Welch, Gus Ellis and Sam Stafford, all members of the 2005 CIF championship team were also in attendance.

Ellis also played on the 2007 CdM title winning team.

The Sea Kings defeated Laguna Beach to win their seventh CIF title, May 21. In the regional tournament, CdM swept Westview of San Diego, defeated Santa Margarita in five games and finally knocked off Westlake in the regional final on May 28.

This is the first national title for the boys volleyball team. The girls have won two (1992 and 1993).

The turning point for this year's team actually came following a loss.

The Sea Kings were swept (on all three levels) by Loyola of Los Angeles, April 21. The bus ride home proved to be an interesting one.

"We kind of had too much of an enjoyable bus ride home," Conti said. "We talked to our varsity guys about that ...we don't want them dwelling too much on a loss but we felt like we maybe didn't play the way we were capable of.

"The entire coaching staff at in the front of the bus was a bit perplexed on how we were carrying ourselves on the way home. Sometimes there is a pivotal moment within your season where something occurs and clicks and connects where you get yourself to a new level and that was one of the most pivotal points of our season and believe it or not, it was a loss that got us to where we are.

The Sea Kings went undefeated the remainder of the season, including playoffs.

"For me, what makes this really, really special is many of these national championship awards are probably won by, I bet a lot of private schools," Conti said. "I bet the public schools that win they probably rely on kids who transfer in.

"We're one of the smallest schools in the county and all these kids have grown up in this community, have gone to elementary school here and I take a great amount of pride knowing that not only are we being successful, but we're doing it the right way and I don't know if every team does it that way."

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