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    San Clemente boys volleyball sweeps El Dorado to grab spot in Division 3 final
    • May 5, 2024

    SAN CLEMENTE — The last time the San Clemente boys volleyball team played in a CIF-SS championship match, none of the players on the current team had been born.

    San Clemente swept El Dorado 25-20, 25-17, 25-16 at home Saturday in the Division 3 semifinals to advance to its first championship game since 2003.

    The Tritons (26-6) last won a CIF championship in 1976. In 2003 San Clemente lost to Loyola in the Division 1 final.

    “I think it’s always about CIF and I want this program to have that type of culture,” San Clemente coach Justin DeBlasio said. “I’m grateful that it’s finally here. It’s been a long time, it’s been a lot of work and we still have another job to do.”

    Last season was the first losing season for San Clemente in many years, dating back to at least the year 2000.

    “I think we are all super locked in and focused after our season last year,” San Clemente senior Kai Schmitt said. “I think we all knew that we needed to get it done this year.”

    San Clemente has won 13 consecutive matches, 10 of them coming via sweeps. The Tritons have lost only three sets during the winning streak.

    El Dorado (29-6) was the Crestview League champion and entered Saturday with seven consecutive wins, six of them being sweeps. The Golden Hawks reached the Division 4 championship game last season.

    “We knew walking in that this was going to be the big game,” El Dorado coach Brit Brown said. “Tons of respect to San Clemente. They brought it, we brought it too and I’m so proud of my team.”

    San Clemente will play St. Margaret’s in the championship game Saturday, May 11, at a site to be determined.

    This will be the third consecutive championship game for St. Margaret’s, which lost in the Division 3 championship game in 2023.

    Serving and passing were the key to San Clemente’s success against El Dorado. The Tritons had seven service aces and junior setter Jettie Presho was spreading the ball around well to set up big swings.

    “We always try to get him to move the ball around and let our hitters know they are one-fifth of the offense,” DeBlasio said. “He’s got so many weapons and that makes it so much tougher for other teams to scout us. They don’t know where the ball is going.”

    San Clemente does not feature one hitter that has eye-popping stats but instead has a balanced offense with multiple players tallying more than five kills.

    Junior Jack Loper (Stanford commit)  led San Clemente in kills. Marcus Kosolcharoen and Pepperdine signee Will Whidden also had over five kills.

    Schmitt, a Stanford signee, had three aces and was also effective around the net.

    El Dorado features outside hitter Max Smith who entered Saturday with the second most kills (383) in Orange County this season. San Clemente’s length and athleticism at the net made it challenging for El Dorado to score. Smith’s 13 kills were his lowest during the playoffs.

    “We kind of knew that he was going to be their go-to option so we keyed on that,” DeBlasio said. “We had high hands. I don’t think he’s seen that level of physicality with the hands with the teams they have played against so that worked to our advantage.”

    “We knew they were going to be big,” Brown said. “We had a game plan going in. I think we just wanted it so bad that we were almost afraid to make mistakes and held back a bit.”

    Trent Chaffin had six kills for El Dorado and setter Ryan Chia had 33 assists.

    DeBlasio likes the way his team is playing and how they attacked El Dorado.

    “We got back to our competitive mindset,” DeBlasio said. “Instead of waiting for the other team to give up, it was us working our game plan, winning the serve and pass battle and being physical. It’s a rare combination in high school and that’s what has worked well for us.”

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    ​ Orange County Register