By Zach Cavanagh

SAN CLEMENTE – The CIF-SS Division 1 boys volleyball playoffs are no cakewalk.

San Clemente knew that even before the South Coast League champion Tritons drew Trinity League champion Santa Margarita in the first round. San Clemente experienced it firsthand on Tuesday, April 30 and will get another dose on Saturday, May 4.

San Clemente cruised through the first set against Santa Margarita, 25-17, and fought off a challenge by the Eagles in the second set, 27-25. However, Santa Margarita continued to push the Tritons and earned wins in back-and-forth third and fourth sets, 26-24, 25-23, to send the match to a decisive fifth set.

The teams again traded points in the fifth set, and San Clemente fought off three Santa Margarita match points to tie the set at 17-17. Wolf Beeuwsaert broke the tie for San Clemente, and the Eagles hit the ball into the net on the final point to give the Tritons the set, 19-17, and the match, 3-2.

“This is eight and nine in the top 16,” San Clemente coach Ken Goldstone said, referring to the teams’ playoff seeds. “Every match is going to be like this. Every one of the matches. I thought maybe if we could close out game three, it would’ve been a lot easier on my heart. They came crawling back in that third game and took that one, and I thought this could go five. Guys held on at the end.”

San Clemente’s reward for the hard-fought win is a trip to No. 1 seed Newport Harbor on Saturday in the Division 1 quarterfinals. The Sailors swept away Palos Verdes with relative ease in the first round, 25-15, 25-16, 25-20.

Newport Harbor (33-1) tied for the Sunset Surf League championship this season and was the CIF-SS and CIF SoCal Regional Division 1 runner-up last season. The Sailors swept San Clemente (28-5) in two competitive matches this season at Newport Harbor and in the Best of the West Tournament.

“They’re just seniors that have played together forever,” Goldstone said of Newport Harbor. “They just know each other really well, and they’ve played club together. We played them tough at Best of the West. We’re right there at 19 and 20 apiece, and then they win key points because they’re seniors.”

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San Clemente received excellent efforts from its own seniors against Santa Margarita.

Marc Monier had 16 kills and collected 15 digs, including two with his feet. Libero Owen Hamro pulled out 23 digs, including many on key late points.

Nathan Streuter led the Tritons with 20 kills and added 10 digs. Bjorn Johansson had 12 kills with 11 digs. Eli Crane had 10 kills with three blocks, and Beeuwsaert had 10 kills with one block.

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