The Newport Harbor and Los Angeles Loyola boys’ volleyball teams came into Saturday night’s Southern Section Division 1 title match as the top two ranked high school teams in the nation by MaxPreps.com.
The No. 2-ranked Sailors and top-ranked Cubs certainly put on a show at Long Beach City College.
In the end, however, Newport Harbor put together a rally worthy of a champion.
Junior outside hitter Jake Read had the match-winning kill as the Sailors won 15-25, 25-20, 20-25, 25-19, 15-12.
It is the fifth Southern Section title in program history for the Sailors and the first since 2019.
To do it, the Sailors (25-5) had to come back against a Loyola (21-3) team that had won 14 consecutive matches headed into Saturday. The Cubs, the top seed in Division 1, hadn’t lost since early March.
But the Sailors pulled away from a 10-10 tie in the fifth set, with senior middle blocker James Eadie with a block and two kills late to help get his team to match point.
Read finished with a team-high 16 kills for the Sailors. Eadie had 13 — including four kills in the decisive set — and junior outside Luca Curci added 12 kills.
Mission League champion Loyola took control early in the first set. A service ace by Dillon Klein, who had a match-high 21 kills, gave the Cubs an 11-5 advantage, forcing Newport Harbor coach Eric Vallely to burn the match’s first timeout.
It ended up as Newport Harbor’s most lopsided set loss of the postseason. But the Sailors didn’t roll over in the second set.
“I think one of the big advantages we had, maybe even over Loyola, is that we had five guys that were in [the Division 1 title match loss to Mira Costa] last year,” Vallely said. “And there’s no substitute for experience.”
Eadie had three early blocks as Newport Harbor stormed out to a 10-4 lead. And Read came alive, recording four kills in the set.
The Sailors never led in the third set, and Klein finished it off with back-to-back kills to help his team get ever closer to the Division 1 crown. But Surf League champion Newport Harbor responded in a tight fourth set, with successive kills from Read and Curci leveling the match at two sets all.
Newport Harbor, which has appeared in four straight Division 1 finals since 2018, won its second championship in that span.
Both teams will compete next week in the Southern California regional championships.