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Huntington Beach ready to move up
The road to the CIF-SS Division 1 boys volleyball championship is likely to roll through Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach and Loyola of Los Angeles.
Last year, Mira Costa edged Loyola in five sets in the final. This year, those teams are ranked No. 1 and 2 in the preseason poll.
There are a number of county teams looking to crash the party, including Huntington Beach, led by the senior trio of Andrew TenBrink, Zach Gates and Matt Butler.
"We have some returning talent of five returning starters," Oilers coach Craig Pazanti said. "I think losing that San Clemente match last year (in the CIF-SS quarterfinals) was a little disappointing. I think we have some higher expectations.
"The top five or six teams, anybody can win it. We have a lot of depth this year, which is definitely going to help us in practice and allow us to continue to get better, which maybe some teams might not have as much depth. That's one of our biggest attributes."
Last year, the Oilers won the Sunset League title, but dropped a five-set match to San Clemente in the playoffs. The Oilers led, 2-1 in sets, but dropped the final two.
The TenBrink-Butler-Gates trio has been on the same club team since they were in the seventh grade. Butler and TenBrink are four-year starters at Huntington Beach
"They have a lot of experience to recall from," Pazanti said. "And I think they're hungry to win ... JO's (Junior Olympics), CIF, whatever it has been, they've come up a little bit short and this is their last go around."
Gates is in his third year on varsity. All three players are headed to Long Beach State.
"We've been talking about it all year, waiting for this season to start," Butler said. "We have weapons everywhere."
Other players to watch for Huntington Beach include senior Grant Halsey, junior Brendan Sander and sophomore TJ DeFalco.
AROUND THE COUNTY
It might take some time to get used to it, but Corona del Mar and the Pacific Coast League are now in Division 1. Meanwhile, the Century League is in Division 2. ....
The Orange County Championships also undergoes a change. This year, Division 1 will switch to a 16-team bracket and will be playing best-of-five matches instead of best-of-three.
The tournament runs March 15-16 with the finals on March 18.
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