Half of the 10 high school boys' volleyball teams in the top division at the Orange County Championships are from the Sunset League.
With so many programs from one league, programs like Huntington Beach and Edison met on the first day of the tournament. These same teams will open league play on Wednesday.
Seeing a team outside of league is something Huntington Beach Coach Craig Pazanti does not prefer. While that is the case, Pazanti will take Friday's result.
The Oilers won the best-of-three pool-play match at Edison, 25-17, 26-28, 15-6.
Alex Anastassiades, a 6-foot-8 senior heading to Long Beach State, led Huntington Beach with 16 kills, four solo blocks and two digs. Noah Franklin, a senior outside hitter, added 10 kills and three digs.
The two helped the Oilers (11-4), ranked No. 10 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll, win both of their contests in pool 2. The Oilers opened with a 25-20, 25-22 sweep of Tesoro.
Huntington Beach returns to Edison for pool-play action on Saturday. The Oilers face Crean Lutheran at 9 a.m., followed up with a matchup with No. 4 Corona del Mar.
The Sea Kings swept Crean Lutheran, 25-11, 25-22, and swept Tesoro, 25-15, 25-14, on Friday. Diego Perez had five kills in the first contest. Against Tesoro, Jake Meyer totaled six kills and six block assists, Brandon Browning five kills, Kevin Kobrine four kills, and Patrick Paragas 20 assists.
The Huntington Beach matchup with CdM (9-1) will most likely determine who wins pool 2 and earns a bye in the quarterfinals. The Sea Kings and Oilers are the top two seeds in their pool.
With only 10 teams in the premier division, six advance to the championship round, which will take place Saturday at Edison. The quarterfinals are at 11:30 a.m., and the semifinals are right after. The finals are on Monday.
The format is different this season compared to the last time Pazanti brought a team to the tournament two years ago.
"The last time [we] played in it, it was 16 teams and it was four pools of four," said Pazanti, whose team also won the Division 1 tournament that same year. "I think last year they were down a little bit [in numbers], and this year they thought they had more. Four teams dropped out late. They had to reformat the tournament last week."
The new format has two pools of five teams, with Newport Harbor being the No. 2 seed in pool 1. Just like the Oilers, the Sailors (10-2) saw a Sunset League rival during the first day.
Ethan Talley produced five kills in the host Sailors' 25-17, 25-20 sweep of Los Alamitos. Newport Harbor travels to Los Alamitos on March 28.
In the second pool-play contest, Landon Monroe had six kills in Newport Harbor's 25-15, 25-21 win over Dana Hills. The Sailors' final two pool-play matches are at home on Saturday, against Fountain Valley at 9 a.m. and Mater Dei at 10:15 a.m. The No. 3-ranked Monarchs also went 2-0.
"It's always different when you play a team from your league in a tournament," Pazanti said. "It's kind of a feeling-out process.
"That's the one thing I don't really like, I don't like playing our league teams in nonleague matches, especially when we got to play [Edison] next week … at our place."
Matt Skolnik, who is in his second year in charge at Edison, liked the early challenge of playing a league foe.
The Chargers lived up to it in Game 2, outlasting the Oilers, 28-26.
Connor Hanks (seven kills) and Joe Leas (six kills) came through with kills late in the second set. On the Chargers' fourth set point chance, setter Corey Taylor (28 assists) went to Hanks, who closed it out with a kill.
Huntington Beach setter Aidan Knipe helped the Oilers finish Edison in Game 3. The sophomore distributed the ball to Anastassiades and he recorded four kills.
Ryan Bevington had a kill and a block assist down the stretch for Huntington Beach. He teamed up with Mitchel Bollinger to turn away a shot. Bollinger, who had five kills, added two solo blocks, the last clinched the match.
The Chargers (6-7), ranked No. 9, bounced back in their second pool-play match. They swept the top-ranked team in Division 3, Crean Lutheran, 25-11, 25-23.
"I love to play in the Orange County Championships, when we get all the best teams from Orange County," Pazanti said. "It would be nice if San Clemente, Laguna [Beach], Beckman and Santa Margarita … were here, just to kind of make it a true Orange County Championships. But at the same time, it's good volleyball. We play against a lot of [quality] Orange County teams."