Caldwell called it an honor to do so and the outside hitter stood out as he always does in the Newport Harbor gym. In front of his family, teammates, friends, classmates and high school coach, Caldwell earned the MVP award after he recorded nine kills, helping the North All-Stars beat the South, 25-19, 25-18, on Friday night.
The match was supposed to go three sets, no matter the result of the first two sets. There was no reason to play another and Newport Harbor Coach Dan Glenn handed Caldwell the MVP plaque. Earlier in the week, Caldwell earned American Volleyball Coaches Assn. first-team All-American honors.
"We're just trying to stay healthy for club," said Caldwell, who played alongside Newport Harbor members Rusty Sary (Orange Coast College) and Ian Sequeira (UCLA), teammates of Caldwell on the Balboa Bay Quiksilver team.
Some of the players on the other side of the net are also teammates of Caldwell on the Balboa Bay Quiksilver team. Two of those players included Corona del Mar middle blocker Spencer Haly (Stanford) and opposite Evan Dean (Pepperdine). Haly and Dean were two of four Sea Kings on the South team, the others were Brennan Anderson (Ohio State) and Nick Curci, who will try to walk on at UC Santa Barbara.
Before the match, there was talk that the South was more loaded than the North. ESPN RISE recently crowned CdM as the national champion after the Sea Kings claimed their first CIF Southern California Regional Division II title. The Sea Kings also won the CIF Southern Section Division II title.
But Caldwell got the best of his Back Bay rivals before he left for Loyola University Chicago. There is a reason why CdM Coach Steve Conti, who guided the South All-Stars, says Caldwell is the best player in CIF.
The 6-foot-6 Caldwell is nearly unstoppable. When you team Caldwell up with another 6-6 stud in Mater Dei's Zack La Cavera, it is not fair. The two overpowered the South down the stretch of the opening set.
Caldwell hammered away with his right arm, La Cavera with his left.
Caldwell produced six kills in the first set and La Cavera contributed a handful.
Caldwell received AVCA first-team All-American honors, but his postseason ended before La Cavera's did. The UC Irvine-bound opposite led Mater Dei to the CIF Southern Section Division I crown, the program's first.
"I was definitely disappointed, but it's athletics," Caldwell said of how the Sailors' season ended. "We work hard for what we get."
That hard work gave Caldwell the opportunity to play on his grandpa's court one last time.