Boys volleyball teams from the Bay League made the most of their opportunities last weekend, examining their own strengths and weaknesses while evaluating the opposition that stands in the way of a CIF championship.
Mira Costa and Palos Verdes tied for third place and Redondo finished tied for seventh in the prestigious Best of the West tournament hosted by Poway High School.
The 32-team tournament featured 24 teams from California, including 20 teams from the CIF Southern Section, five from the San Diego area, two from Hawaii and one from Arizona.
Entering Friday’s pool play, the top seeds in each pool consisted of the top seven ranked teams in CIF Southern Section Division 1 and the top ranked team in Division 2.
All three teams from the Bay League won their respective pools and advanced to Saturday’s competition in the Gold Division.
Mira Costa, which entered the tournament ranked No. 1 in the CIF Division 1 poll, was the Pool 1 champion defeating Hawaii Baptist 25-14, 25-19, Silverado 25-17, 25-8 and Servite 25-21, 25-17.
In Gold Division action, the Mustangs beat Bellarmine 25-20, 30-28 and Dana Hills 32-20, 25-16 before losing their first match of the season to eventual champion San Clemente 26-24, 14-25, 20-18.
Casey White led Mira Costa (7-1) with 73 kills and 28 digs. Riley Mallon added 60 kills and Scott Stephanoff recorded 51 kills. White joined teammate Grant Chalmers as an all-tournament team selection.
San Clemente defeated Loyola 25-20, 22-25, 15-13 to claim the crown and moved up to No. 1 in the Division 1 rankings. Loyola remains in the second spot followed by Mira Costa.
“As usual, the Best of the West lived up to its billing,” Mira Costa head coach Mike Ninnis said. “There were plenty of strong teams and many hotly contested matches. Overall we were pleased with our level of play in Poway, but know that we need to continue to improve in order to have a successful run come CIF.”
Last season, Mira Costa finished tied for fifth in the Best of the West tournament but went on to win CIF Division 1 and CIF Southern California championships.
Palos Verdes, ranked No. 5 in Division 1, finished first in Pool 6 defeating Dos Pueblos 25-12, 25-20, West Ranch 25-23, 25-21 and Corona del Mar 25-23, 25-18.
The Sea Kings were tested Saturday having to go the distance in each of its matches, beating La Costa Canyon 25-21, 23-25, 15-12 and Huntington Beach 25-13, 21-25, 15-13 before losing to Loyola 25-22, 21-25, 15-11.
Redondo won Pool 7 after beating Palisades Charter 25-19, 25-16, Westview 25-23, 25-16 and Bellarmine 25-23, 25-22.
The Sea Hawks rolled over Hawaii Baptist 25-15, 25-15 before facing perennial power and defending tournament champion Loyola. Redondo could not come back from a heartbreaking 30-28 loss in the first set, dropping the second game 25-17. In the fifth-place game, Redondo fell to Huntington Beach 25-19, 25-19.
Louis Richard was named to the all-tournament team after recording 18 kills and Vinny Pizzuti added 17 kills for the Sea Hawks.
Mira Costa (8-1) enjoyed a sweep in its final tune-up match before league action begins when the Mustangs defeated visiting Orange Lutheran (No. 9, Div. 1) in 25-19, 25-20, 25-22 on Tuesday.
For decades, the Mira Costa’s boys volleyball program has been considered among the nation’s best and players from its storied history will return Friday for the Mustang’s annual Alumni Game set to begin at 7 p.m.
Redondo is ranked No. 8 in Division 1 and has two non-league matches before beginning its quest for a league championship. Coach Duncan Avery’s Sea Hawks swept host Bishop Montgomery (ranked No. 3 in Division 4) 25-19, 25-14, 25-17 on Tuesday with Pizzuti and Nehemiah Iosia each recording 10 kills.
The Sea Hawks play at Servite Thursday in a 5:30 p.m. match.
Bay League action begins with a bang when Mira Costa hosts rival Redondo Tuesday at 7 p.m.
“The Bay League is as strong as it has ever been, with Redondo, PV, and ourselves all finishing well this past weekend,” Ninnis said. “The opener against Redondo should not disappoint.”