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Newport Harbor boys volleyball caps season with sweep to Division I regional title

NEWPORT BEACH >> After a fierce five-set victory over Loyola last week in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 boys volleyball final, Newport Harbor still had one more goal to accomplish.

The encore match Saturday night wasn’t as compelling, but the Sailors still enjoyed their sweep of visiting Loyola 25-15, 25-23, 25-14 to win the CIF SoCal Regional Division I title, as the dominant performance emphatically reclaimed their place on volleyball’s summit.

Newport Harbor coach Eric Vallely was thrilled to be able to add to his program’s legacy by leading the Sailors to the regional title, the second in school history and first since 2019.

“There’s a pretty good tradition here at Newport Harbor for volleyball and it’s an honor to uphold that,” Vallely said. “One of the things that’s really exciting, compared to ’19 and now, is even though they’re fairly close together in years, not one of the guys on this team was on that (2019) team. It just speaks to our program, the kids, their hard work and hopefully each year we’ll keep turning out a good squad.”

The Sailors, playing on their home court, were led by Jake Read, who had a team-high 18 kills. Luca Curci added 12 kills, including the decisive swing for championship match point.

Riggs Guy finished with nine kills and three blocks, and Pepperdine-bound senior James Eadie contributed seven kills and five blocks.

Newport Harbor (28-5) began the match as the more aggressive team and used their serving (10 aces) to help them build a lead in the first set.

The Cubs (23-4) responded with much sharper play in the second set. They went up 20-18 before a 3-0 run by the Sailors helped them regain the lead and momentum and eventually a 2-0 lead in the match.

“We knew they were going to respond, they’re too good of a team not to,” Vallely said of Loyola. “We also know that we have firepower as well, and all we have to do is get a sideout, make a tough serve, give ourselves a chance to make a play defensively, and we did. We were resilient, and we refused to lose.”

Vallely joins former Newport Harbor coach Rocky Ciarelli as the school’s only boys volleyball coaches to win CIF section and regional championships in the same season.

“One of my biggest things with any team I coach is that it’s not so much how good we are early, it’s peaking at the right time, at the end,” he said. “It’s been our motto all year long, playing to be good now. And for the last month, our team word has been ‘attack.’ We wanted to attack from every point on the court. I think all the guys together attacked all night long.”

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