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Huntington's title is 19 years in the making

Boys' volleyball program captures first CIF Southern Section Division 1 crown since 1994 by beating perennial-power Loyola in a five-game thriller.

May 22, 2013|By Mike Sciacca
  • Huntington Beach High volleyball players celebrate with their plaque after beating Loyola in a CIF Division 1 boys' volleyball championship match at Santiago Canyon College on Saturday.
Huntington Beach High volleyball players celebrate… (KEVIN CHANG, HB…)

ORANGE — Craig Pazanti cradled the championship plaque securely under his left arm while he wiped his brow with his right hand late Saturday night at center court at Santiago Canyon College.

"I've been telling the kids all year that I thought they were the best team," Pazanti said, still wiping away sweat on occasion, the beads the result of an intense match his Huntington Beach High boys' volleyball team had just fought through, and survived.

Pazanti was proven right — his Oilers are the No. 1 team.

Huntington captured its first CIF Southern Section Division 1 title in boys' volleyball in 19 years by twice rallying from a one-set deficit to knock off Los Angeles Loyola in a five-set thriller, 26-28, 25-23, 19-25, 25-22, 15-10.

It was the program's first title since the school won back-to-back crowns in 1993-94 under Rocky Ciarelli.

Pazanti, a graduate of Huntington (1989), played for and later served as an assistant under Ciarelli when the Oilers were repeat CIF champs two decades ago.

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"I'm in my dream job," Pazanti said of coaching at his alma mater. "Huntington hasn't won a title in 20 years, but we've always been successful, and that is because of Rocky. He made us believe we were always one of the teams to beat. Even in the down years, Huntington Beach was still one of the top programs in Orange County. I am proud to continue the winning tradition that he started.

"This is just incredible. I couldn't be more proud of these kids. We were down but we always fought back. To win this, win in Game 4, after we were handled in Game 3, is a testament to this team. Just incredible."

To win the program's third Division 1 title, Huntington, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, beat Nos. 1 (Manhattan Beach Mira Costa) and 2 (Loyola) in four days.

Huntington continued its winning ways in the opening round of the CIF Southern California Division 1 Regional on Tuesday, sweeping Clovis Buchanan. The Oilers — 32-2, winners of 22 straight — will host San Clemente in a 7 p.m. semifinal Thursday, with the winner advancing to the regional final Saturday at Santiago Canyon College

But to keep its match winning streak alive in the Southern Section final, Huntington had to overcome adversity. Its streak of consecutive matches without losing a set was snapped at 15, with the Oilers dropping the first and third sets to Loyola (30-3).

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