Coronado’s student section reminded Foothill fans with a chant that Cougars outside hitter Jacob Ceci is only a freshman.
But he didn’t look like one in the Desert Region volleyball final Friday night at Arbor View.
Didn’t play like one, either.
Ceci put the finishing touches on a 21-25, 25-16, 25-23, 22-25, 15-11 victory over the Falcons with a thunderous kill in the fifth set, clinching Coronado’s first region championship since 2013.
The Cougars (31-11) will play Mountain Region runner-up Arbor View (33-6) in the Class 4A state semifinals Tuesday for a berth in the state championship match. The Falcons (25-15) also advance and will meet Mountain Region champion Palo Verde (35-3).
“The guys are just working on getting to be a better team,” Coronado coach Matt Johnson said. “They’re still working on being a better team, better teammates, supporting each other. That’s really what it was. At the end, they just supported each other.”
The Cougars qualified for the state tournament in each of the previous two seasons and returned seven seniors this year. They breezed through Desert League play with a 12-0 record and hadn’t lost a set since April 26.
But the Falcons also reached the state tournament a year ago and boast an experienced squad. They won the first set behind the play of Desert League player of the year Caleb Stearman, who finished with 19 kills, 22 assists and 13 digs.
The Cougars responded by claiming the second and third sets, and Foothill won the fourth.
“I thought we played really well in the first,” Johnson said. “It was back and forth after that. Going into the fifth, it was like, all right, whoever gets hot early can hold onto it and get into a rhythm.”
Alex Winiarczyk had 19 kills and 17 digs, Ceci added 17 kills and 12 digs, and Alex White had 51 assists and 17 digs for Coronado.
Ceci said he did not expect to win the region championship. Or seal the win with a kill.
“It’s a shocker that we got this far,” he said. “I don’t even know what to say.”
Palo Verde coach Phil Clarke figured before the season that the Panthers could make a run at the Mountain Region championship.
The return of Scott Solan all but guaranteed it.
Solan, a 6-foot-7-inch opposite hitter, had 20 kills to help Palo Verde to a 17-25, 25-17, 20-25, 25-16, 15-13 victory over host Arbor View.
“There’s a lot of heart, there’s a lot of pride,” Clarke said. “They kind of took on that us against the world mentality, it sure seems that way. It’s a great group of guys, and they just battled through the atmosphere.”
Solan, a Pepperdine commit who declined to comment after the match, led Palo Verde to the Class 4A state championship in 2017, but sat out the 2018 season amid a busy school and club schedule. Clarke said he knew before the year that Solan planned to play.
Jared Brady had 25 kills and 17 digs for Palo Verde, and Cooper Jarman added 51 assists.
Max Senior had 32 assists, 13 digs and four aces for Arbor View, and Gideon Belnap added 19 kills and three blocks.