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Local girls’ volleyball teams challenged in Dave Mohs Tournament

A common theme with the area’s girls’ volleyball teams this season appears to be youth.

On the cusp of playing their first league games, many of the local teams picked up valuable experience in the Dave Mohs Memorial Tournament. It allowed the teams to see the kind of opponents they might face in a potential CIF playoff run further down the line.

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Huntington Beach High placed 11th, which was the top performance among area teams in the Division 1 field. The Oilers went 1-1 on Saturday in Silver Bracket play at Newport Harbor High.

The day ended with the Oilers dropping their Silver Bracket semifinal match to Lakewood St. Joseph 25-18, 25-18. The Jesters possessed a lot of firepower, especially the left arm of opposite Kara Green.

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Both teams have appeared on the CIF Southern Section’s list of teams considered for the combined Division 1 and 2 rankings. Oilers coach Craig Pazanti said the difference between the two teams was ball control.

“It’s coming down to difference in first contact,” Pazanti said. “They’re a little bit more in system than we are. When we put the ball on our setter, we’re pretty tough to defend.

“Both of our middles do a really good job, and then that kind of frees it up for everything else.”

Junior setter Jaclyn Sanchez has worked with the Oilers’ two middle blockers in junior Xolani Hodel and sophomore Olivia Carlton before as a member of Club H. The Oilers’ first-time starter is excited about the young group of hitters she has to work with. That includes sophomore outside hitter Sabrina Phinizy, who was effective with her ball striking from off the net.

Huntington Beach (4-4) advanced to the Silver Bracket this year, a good omen when one considers that a veteran roster only qualified for the Bronze Bracket before going on to win the Sunset League crown last year.

“I think being young is good,” Sanchez said. “I think we have a little more fight in us than last year. When we make mistakes, we all have each other’s back. We’re there for each other. We all get along very well, especially me and [Carlton]. She’s like my best friend.”

Earlier in the day, Huntington Beach defeated South Jordan Bingham (UT) 25-19, 25-16.

Sunset League newcomer Corona del Mar also made it to the Silver Bracket. The Sea Kings will be in the Surf Division with Huntington Beach, Edison and Los Alamitos.

After dropping their first match of bracket play to Long Beach Poly 25-20, 25-13, CdM battled back in consolation to finish 13th in Division 1. The Sea Kings beat Bakersfield Liberty 25-18, 25-23, and Bingham 23-25, 25-15, 17-15.

Kendall Kipp led CdM on the day with 41 kills and 25 digs. Bella Pouliot had 70 assists, Michelle Won added 35 digs and Molly Joyce chipped in with 17 kills.

“We served a lot tougher,” Sea Kings coach Steve Astor said. “Michelle Won had great serves for us. She missed one going for it, and that’s OK. We have to be willing to miss some serves in sets. If we’re serving 100 percent in and losing, that’s an issue. It means that we’re not serving tough enough.

“We served a lot tougher. We got ourselves into holes in both of those sets, but the positive is that we climbed out of them, and it’s because we served tougher.”

The Sea Kings will take an 8-9 overall record into their first league crossover match at Wave Division opponent Fountain Valley (6-3).

Fountain Valley took third place in the Gold Bracket for the tournament’s Division 2 teams. On Saturday, the host Barons beat Esperanza 25-22, 17-25, 16-14, before dropping their semifinal to Carlsbad 25-16, 25-14.

“It was probably the best match I’ve seen them play in,” Barons coach Taylor Packer said of the win over the Aztecs. “It was pretty tight. Every point, we were on a crunch, but they handled the pressure really good, and they were able to overcome it. They played together pretty good.”

Packer said that junior outside hitter Phoebe Minch sprained her right ankle against Carlsbad, but she was hopeful that Minch would be able to return in time for the CdM match next Thursday.

Estancia started the season with a 5-1 mark, but the Eagles (5-6) struggled in the Dave Mohs Memorial Tournament. First-year Eagles coach Alejandro De Mendoza said entering the tournament was a learning experience.

“I made the decision to go into the Dave Mohs Tournament,” De Mendoza said. “I think the girls needed to see a different level of volleyball and understand where we could go if we put enough work in.

“I have a really good group of freshmen. I have two on varsity that play a lot. We have really good potential for growth, and I wanted to show them that we can grow. We can get better.”

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