Orange County: Rivals battle for marquee volleyball titles

It has been 10 years since Santa Margarita defeated Mater Dei for the Southern Section Division III boys' volleyball championship.

But when the two programs step on the court Saturday at Cypress College, they will be vying for the marquee Division 1 title.

The teams, both from the Trinity League, have already played each other three times this season.

Each swept three games on its home court during league play, and Santa Margarita swept the Monarchs in a best-of-three match in the Orange County Invitational.

Led by setter Taylor Hammond and hitters Ryan Baine and Spencer Buckley, history says that second-seeded Santa Margarita (32-2) -- one of the best teams in the state throughout the season -- will win. The Eagles are three-for-three in section title games, winning in 1997, 1998 and 2001.

They were beaten in their Trinity League final by Mater Dei (27-3). But in the playoffs, including a semifinal at Thousand Oaks, the Eagles haven't lost a game. No team has been closer than four points to them.

Mater Dei won't be any pushover behind Zach La Cavera, who has played very well in the playoffs. In addition to beating Santa Margarita in the last game before the playoffs, the Monarchs beat top-seeded Mira Costa in the quarterfinals, and Westlake -- which beat fourth-seeded Newport Harbor -- in the semifinals.

The victory over Westlake was 25-12, 25-14, 22-25, 25-14 behind La Cavera (15 kills) and John Zappia (12 kills).

Mater Dei is winless in three previous title matches, including Gahr in 2000 and Westlake in 2009. But history doesn't seem to bother the Monarchs right now.

Division 1 will be preceded in the main gym by a Division 2 match between top-seeded Corona del Mar (28-5) and second-seeded Laguna Beach (20-10).

It is also a marquee matchup between perennially strong program. Both have won six championships in 10 appearances, and though they have played dozens of times in their history, it's their first meeting in a section final. CdM, led by junior Parker Brown, won both meetings during the season against the Breakers.

The schedule for Saturday championship games at Cypress College:

  • Division 5: Vistamar vs. Chadwick, 1:30 p.m.

  • Division 3: Burbank Burroughs vs. Cerritos Valley Christian, 2 p.m.

  • Division 4: Santa Monica vs. San Gabriel, 4 p.m.

  • Division 2: Corona del Mar vs. Laguna Beach, 4:30 p.m.

  • Division 1: Mater Dei vs. Santa Margarita, 7:30 p.m.