CYPRESS – Mira Costa High School’s boys volleyball team brought a risky strategy to the CIF Southern Section Division I volleyball championships Saturday night at Cypress College.
After losing twice earlier this spring to Loyola High, the Mustangs decided to go right after the Cubs’ Nick Porterfield, arguably the best player on the No. 1 ranked volleyball team in the section. Mira Costa’s gamble paid off as the No. 3 Mustangs upset Loyola 25-19, 25-22, 25-27, 21-25, 15-12.
"Yeah, that was our plan," said Mira Costa’s Kevin Inlow between hugs in the celebratory mayhem after the match. “He’s their best player. We wanted to pressure him.”
The strategy worked so well that it looked as if the Mustangs would sweep Loyola out of the gym. An estimated 1,500 vocal fans witnessed Mira Costa win the first two sets and serve for the championship point twice in the third.
But Loyola escaped to win set 3. Then the 6-foot-3, UCLA-bound Porterfield came alive, recording 10 kills and 2 blocks in the Cubs' set 4 triumph and forcing a decisive set 5.
Overall, Porterfield pounded 22 kills to lead the Cubs. Loyola’s Alex Slaught tallied 18 kills and Parker Boehle had 12 digs.
Loyola denied the Mustangs twice more at championship point in set 5. But Porterfield’s final jump serve misfired into the net, sending the Mustangs’ student cheering section onto the gym floor in delirium.
"It would have been special either way, but now that we had to work harder all five games, it really feels good," said Mira Costa senior outside hitter Christopher Orenic, who had a match-high 24 kills.
"They played well. They really fought and we knew they were going to. Once they won that one game, we knew it was going to be a dogfight."
Mustangs setter Jackson Carr dished out 58 assists and added 10 blocks. Scott Stephanoff amassed 11 kills and three blocks. Karl Acres belted 11 kills, Brooks Varni had 13 digs and Inlow recorded nine kills and eight digs.
With the win, Mira Costa improved to 32-4 and likely secured a Tuesday home match in the first round of the state volleyball championship playoffs. The Cubs, who tasted defeat for only the second time in 35 matches, will probably be on the road for their first-round state playoff match.
While it was the seventh boys CIF volleyball title for Mira Costa, it was the first for Mustangs coach Michael Ninnis, who was philosophical about his side needing five shots at the championship point before finally cashing in.
“Well, obviously we didn’t convert on the first four tries,” he said with a grin. “But we fought through to the end.
“Winning CIF was our goal all along, Ninnis said. “State is gravy.”
Loyola coach Mike Boehle said he realized early on that the Mustangs were gunning for Porterfield. Almost every Mustangs’ serve was sent his way.
“It got to Nick a little bit,” Boehle said. “But he fought back. Nick’s been our horse all year long.”
"Any time you go down 2-0 and you fight back to five games, you've got to give your team credit. These guys fought back. But we had a chance and didn't do it. Give Mira Costa credit, they played better tonight."