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Huntington Beach boys' volleyball outlasts Laguna Beach in playoff opener

Starting next school year, the Laguna Beach High boys' volleyball team will be joining Huntington Beach in the Sunset League.

If Tuesday night's match is any indication, fans should get ready for some epic showdowns.

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The teams battled for five sets in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs at Laguna Beach. Ultimately, the Breakers were unable to close out the upset and the visiting Oilers rallied for a 20-25, 25-18, 24-26, 25-15, 15-7 victory.

"It's nice to make a statement, show them what [league] they're coming into," said Huntington Beach senior outside hitter Mitchell Bollinger, who had a match-high 20 kills.

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Make no mistake, the Breakers (16-10) earned the respect of the Oilers (26-5) in the teams' only meeting of the season. But it is Huntington Beach, ranked No. 5 in the final CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll, that moves on to play host to Westlake Village Westlake in the second round on Thursday. Westlake swept at Goleta Dos Pueblos in another first-round match Tuesday.

Sophomore Sinjin Choi had 10 kills for Huntington Beach, while senior opposite Hunter Dickey added nine and senior middle blocker Max Burch had seven. The Oilers' other senior middle blocker, Ryan Bevington, led the way with five blocks.

"Survive and advance," said the Long Beach State-bound Bollinger, whose team recovered after failing to convert a set point in set three. "I think we just pulled it together as a team more and started playing together a lot more. It ended up paying dividends in the end."

UCLA-bound senior outside hitter Sam Burgi led Orange Coast League champion Laguna Beach with 19 kills and four service aces, and sophomore opposite Geste Bianchi added 17 kills. Junior setter Ayrton Garcia dished out 45 assists.

Burgi served out the final five points of the first set from 20-20, a run that included two aces. The Breakers dropped set two, but Laguna Beach rallied in set three after dropping the first four points.

Burgi's attack went long at 23-23 to give Huntington Beach a set point, but he made up for that with a kill that landed on the right sideline. Bianchi and Andrew Reavis followed with kills of their own to give the Breakers the 2-1 sets advantage.

"In other people's eyes, we weren't expected to win a set," Burgi said. "I thought it was just a great match because we went to five. Everyone was just having fun out there."

Huntington Beach never trailed after losing the first point of set four, however. The Oilers opened a 12-5 lead in the final set.

Burgi had back-to-back kills to bring the Breakers closer, but two straight kills from Bollinger brought up match point, and Burgi's final attempt went wide.

Next spring, the teams will play in the Sunset League, before the playoffs begin.

"They're definitely coming into the toughest league that there is out there," said Huntington Beach senior libero Grant Guinasso, who helped the Oilers finish second in the league behind undefeated Newport Harbor, the top seed in Division 1. "We always have the top three teams that are going to the second round at least, you know, or making into the quarters. I think it's great for the school. It will definitely boost up their programs, but yeah, they're going to have their work cut out for them."

The Oilers did too against the Breakers, but they found a way to move on.

Twitter: @mjszabo

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