May 20, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

St. Margaret’s captures CIF Division 3 title with straight-set win over San Clemente

St. Margaret’s volleyball team celebrates a CIF title Saturday. (Photos: Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone).

 St. Margaret’s High School’s boys volleyball team defeated San Clemente in straight sets Saturday at Cerritos College to capture the CIF Division 3 championship.

The Tartans (32-4) executed a near flawless match and earned their 16th straight victory.

After falling to El Segundo in the finals last season, St. Margaret’s rebounded to win its second volleyball championship in three years. During its playoff run this season, the Tartans didn’t lose a set in their five playoffs matches, going 15-0.

“We have guys that have been there before and I think we played our best volleyball and especially our best defense of the season,” said Tartans Coach Bob Yoder, a San Clemente high school graduate. “They’re a good team and we needed Reed (Wainwright) to have a great game for us and he did. Caden (Isola) was also outstanding for us as well, but everyone played their roles and did their job well.”

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Despite being a shutout, each set was close (25-22, 25-22 and 25-20). Only late in the third set did either team build more than a four-point lead.

In the first set, after the Tritons took an 18-16 lead, St. Margaret’s called time out. When play resumed, the Tartans went on a 9-4 run to steal the opening game, 25-22. Wainwright and sophomore Beckett Harvey sparked St. Margaret’s down the stretch. Wainwright recorded the final two kills to give the Tartans a 1-0 lead.

“We took a few timeouts in the opening sets to make adjustments and set up our matchups and it paid off,” Yoder added.

Set two was tied eight times. With the score tied at 16-16, San Clemente earned the next four points, highlighted by (Stanford commit) Kai Schmitt’s back-to-back kills to give the Tritons a 20-16 lead.

San Clemente seemed to gain momentum and was on the verge of tying the match. However, once again, St. Margaret’s came out of a timeout and rallied, this time rolling off a 9-2 run, including seven straight points to take game two. Wainwright was instrumental in the Tartans’ charge as he recorded four kills in the final moments to propel St. Margaret to a 25-22 victory in game two.

“I have to credit our coach, we didn’t get raddled when we were behind and we’ve been in a lot of close games this season” said the 6-7 outside hitter and Stanford-commit Wainwright, who finished with 22 kills. “It’s awesome to win a CIF championship.”

The Tritons kept game three close until the midway point of the set. Wainwright added three kills to up St. Margaret’s lead to 14-10. Wainwright’s teammates, Aidan McMahon, Miles Eaton, Caden Isola and Luke Balint then added several crucial kills to create separation and close out the game, the match and secure the championship.

“We feel if we put pressure on any team, we can break them,” said Isola. “The difference was that we were more aggressive and were focused on our target. We got good swings at every ball.”

“We had better energy and our middles played really well and we did a great job digging,” added Eaton. “We know how to close out games.”

“It’ an amazing feeling to win a championship,” said Balint. “We had 100 percent better energy and we broke their defense.”   

Despite the disappointment, San Clemente Coach Justin DeBlasio displayed great sportsmanship.

“I think they stressed us out late in each set,” said DeBlasio, whose team was trying to win its first boys CIF volleyball championship since 1976. “We didn’t get to the playoffs last season and St. Margaret’s was in the championship, so they have some experience and they broke us down a bit. Reed (Wainwright ) was fantastic. He plays at a high level and we made uncharacteristic errors.”

“I think we let our emotions get the best of us late in each game, added Schmitt, who led San Clemente with 13 kills. “We didn’t lock down at the end of each set and we lost energy.”

Jack Loper added 12 kills for the Tritons.

St. Margaret’s defeated Millikan, Burroughs, Mission Viejo and Long Beach Poly to reach the finals, while San Clemente defeated Notre Dame, Oak Park, University and El Dorado to reach Saturday’s final.

The Tritons, who won the South Coast League title and who had won 13 consecutive matches, had lost only one set in their first four playoff games entering the finals. St. Margaret’s won the Orange Coast League title this season and on Saturday recorded their 24th shutout of the season.  

Note: Former San Clemente volleyball coach Jack Iverson was in attendance. “We’ve won a lot of league titles and tournaments, but we were trying to win our first CIF title since 1976,” said Iverson, who coached the 1976 championship team. “Justin’s done a great job with the team. Last season, they had a losing record and this year, they made it to the finals. He flipped it around.”

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone