Loyola defeats Mira Costa to win 13th Southern Section volleyball title

Moments after watching the ball bounce wide of the sideline on match point, Loyola senior Sean Kelly embraced his teammates pouring off the bench and pointed to the faithful fans who made the journey to Cerritos College on Saturday night to watch the Cubs make history.

Kelly showed why he is the top high school volleyball recruit in America with a breathtaking display of hitting and serving that powered Loyola to a 25-21, 25-22, 25-21 victory over Mira Costa in the Southern Section Division 1 final.

Kelly finally added the one thing missing from his prep resume — a CIF championship — but he was already looking ahead.

“We still have [regionals] next week, but this means a lot,” said the reigning Division 1 player of the year and UCLA signee after hammering 15 kills. “I’ve worked so hard for four years and this feels great!”

Kelly’s three-point serving run, including an ace, gave Loyola an 11-8 lead in the opening set, which included a point that saw the ball cross the net nine times before the Cubs took it with a block. Simon Capps got a kill on the second set point.

Top-seeded Loyola (29-1-1) trailed 10-5 in the third set but rallied behind its 6-foot-7 outside hitter to take the lead for good at 16-15.

Loyola’s only loss was 25-27, 25-20, 12-15 to Mater Dei on March 9 at the Best of the West Tournament. The Cubs beat Mira Costa on its home court, 25-23, 23-25, 25-16, 25-17 on March 22.

Loyola won the regional crown last spring by beating Newport Harbor. Loyola and Mira Costa had met in the finals three previous times, Loyola winning in 2005 and 2010 and Mira Costa winning in 2012.

Alex Heins had 14 kills and Long Beach State commit Victor Loiola added 13 for the Mustangs (35-4), who were denied their ninth Southern Section title.

Loyola has won 13 Southern Section titles, including a record four straight from 1985 to 1988 under Roger Yano. This might be the sweetest of the seven titles won by current coach and 1984 Loyola alum Michael Boehle, who has led the program since 1999 and won his most recent section crown in 2016.

“He’s the real deal, a humble kid and the best I’ve ever coached,” Boehle said of Kelly. “The scary thing is he knows he’s going to have four or five hands up [to block him] every time. His serving was out of control tonight and when we needed separation, we’d call his number.”

With victory secure, Kelly got a hug from the 2022 player of the year and former Cubs teammate Dillon Klein, now at USC, who was there to witness Kelly claim what Klein was unable to get: a section title.

“It’s always tough playing a good team a second time, especially on a stage like this, but we have each other’s backs,” Kelly said.

Division 2

Ethan Saint had 24 kills, Brooks Ignosci contributed nine kills and 12 digs, Blake Herman had 10 digs and two aces, the second coming on match point, and setter Chase Wallin had 33 assists to power Santa Margarita past Redondo Union, 25-21, 26-24, 25-18.

Bobby Bennett had 12 kills, Luke Goldmann had nine and Shane Friedman delivered 33 assists for the Sea Hawks (29-8), making their first finals appearance since 2006.

The Eagles (21-3) saved two set points in the second stanza, then took a 25-24 lead on Fenton Regan’s stuff block. A Saint kill gave a two-set advantage to Santa Margarita, which won its first CIF title since 2001.

Division 3

In a matchup between Orange County schools less than nine miles apart, Reed Wainwright had 23 kills for St. Margaret’s in a 25-22, 25-22, 25-20 sweep of San Clemente (26-7), which received strong defensive play from Stanford-bound senior libero Kai Schmitt.

St. Margaret’s (32-4) closed the pivotal second set on an 8-1 run. Wainwright, also a Stanford commit, hammered a crosscourt kill to give the Tartans a 23-21 lead and they closed out the set on a roof by Beckett Harvey and Aidan McMahon.

St. Margaret’s captured its second section title in three years under coach Bob Yoder, having swept Capistrano Valley Christian for the Division 4 title in 2022 and falling to El Segundo in four sets in the Division 3 final last spring.

Division 5

Junior outside hitter Jackson Cryst pounded 53 kills on 98 swings, Brayden Brien dished out 60 assists and Connor Gapp had 21 digs as Sage Hill survived a furious San Marino comeback in the decisive set to win, 19-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-18, 15-13.

Cryst had eight kills in the fifth set, the last on match point, as the Lightning (21-8) forged a 12-6 lead. The Titans (26-7-1) pulled to within a point four times in the fifth set, but never tied it or led.

It was a Santa Clarita showdown in the Division 4 final at College of the Canyons, where West Ranch swept Foothill League rival Valencia, 25-23, 30-28, 26-24. The Wildcats improved to 25-11.

In the Division 7 final, host Ontario Christian claimed its first-ever title with a 25-12, 25-16, 25-017 sweep of No. 6-seeded Avalon.

Micah Mackenzie led the way with 14 kills, Simon Koontz had nine kills and five blocks, Angelo Martinez and Josh Converse had seven kills apiece and Ryan Merandi added 39 assists for the top-seeded Knights (21-10).

Samueli Academy swept Riverside Poly, 25-21, 25-23, 25-12, in the Division 6 final Friday night.


Justin Dickson had 12 kills and three blocks, Grant Chang added 11 kills and Chase Dunn had nine as No. 1-seeded Chatsworth repeated as Open Division champion with a 25-17, 26-24, 21-25, 20-25, 15-11 victory over No. 2 Eagle Rock on Saturday night in the last of four finals at Cal State Northridge.

Freshman Kevin Rabaja had 14 digs for the Chancellors (41-7), who won their third Open Division title in four years —all under coach Sina Aghassy — and their 11th section crown, second only to Palisades’ 17.

The Eagles (35-10) were vying for their fourth section title, having won the Invitational Division in 1997 and Division II in 2013 and 2014.

Division I

Noah Smith had 19 kills, Nathan Hoggatt had 14 kills and three blocks, and Clay Takahashi had 40 assists and five digs as No. 1-seeded Venice downed No. 2 Birmingham 25-21, 25-20, 19-25, 25-22.

The Gondoliers (33-15) notched their third City title, the others being 3A titles in 1991 and 1992. The Patriots (14-16) were denied their first title since winning the Invitational Division in 2005.

Division II

Top-seeded Grant (31-8-2) secured its first section title with a 25-12, 25-20, 26-28, 25-20 triumph over No. 7-seeded Valley Academy of Arts & Sciences (23-7).

Art Yang pulled off a rare feat: coaching both the boys’ and girls’ teams to titles in the same division. In 2019, he guided the Lady Lancers to the Division III crown.

Division III

Fifth-seeded Hamilton (13-5) captured its first boys’ volleyball title in school history with a 21-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-20 victory over No. 2 Mendez (28-11-1), which was seeking its third title in four years.

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