For years, the Laguna Beach High girls’ volleyball team ran the Orange Coast League.
The Breakers’ domination was such that it would have been tough to consider any of their league foes a rival.
Back then, Laguna Beach stacked its nonleague schedule with regularity, taking on the kind of tests it knew it would see in the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
Now that Laguna Beach has moved to the Sunset League, that pattern has not changed. The Breakers continue to take on tough opponents early in the season, and this time, it wound up with them facing an untraditional rival.
Laguna Beach went the distance at Dana Hills on Thursday, dropping a tight nonleague match that the Dolphins won 18-25, 28-26, 20-25, 25-15, 15-8.
As if a five-setter against a team that made the Division 1 playoffs the year before were not exciting enough, the Dolphins (1-0) had Drae and Stila Fresenius on their team. Many of the Breakers have grown up playing with the Fresenius sisters, as their mother, Lael, is a coach at the Laguna Beach Volleyball Club.
“They’re also down on our beaches, too,” Breakers sophomore Jackie Strawn said of the Fresenius sisters. “We’ve played each other for many years. It’s fun playing against your friends. We obviously want to win. It definitely puts a lot of different energy into it.”
Drae Fresenius, a San Jose State commit, had 53 assists, six digs, five kills and three service aces to lead the Dolphins. Stila Fresenius, an outside hitter, had a team-high 19 kills, 16 digs and five blocks.
Laguna Beach (1-1) took control of the first set with a seven-point run behind the serve of Strawn.
Dana Hills made an adjustment, throwing up a wall in front of Ella Tyus (15 kills and 10 digs). The sophomore outside hitter committed three early errors against the blockade, forcing the Breakers to look elsewhere.
Junior Piper Naess and senior Gretchen Webb combined for nine kills in the second set, keeping the Breakers in a very tight game.
Both teams had set points in Game 2, but Dana Hills drew even when Camille Freeman’s ace clinched the second set for the Dolphins at 28-26.
Laguna Beach twice led by a set, but the size of the Dolphins began to tax the Breakers late in the match. Dana Hills was in command in the fourth set, and a new face became a difference-maker down the stretch.
Dolphins opposite Hunter Riedl had five of her 10 kills in the final set, including four in a row to spot her team a 7-2 lead.
“I get a lot of adrenaline, and once I get on a roll, I just keep going,” Riedl said. “We have a lot of friends on the other team, which made it even more fun to win and challenge them.”
Naess stood out for Laguna Beach, leading the way for the Breakers with 20 kills and 16 digs.
The Breakers stayed in the match with the more physically-imposing Dolphins thanks to their passing and defense. Junior libero Hallie Carballo and Tyus played well out of the back row, allowing junior setter Soren Patchell (35 assists and 12 digs) to run the offense without much trouble.
“We’re really scrappy,” Naess said. “We’re getting everything up. I feel like we’re really good defensively, which is what a lot of players don’t really have.”
Shawn Patchell is in his second stint as the head coach of the Breakers. He said he also coached the team from 1998 to 2001. When asked of his long-term goals for the team, Patchell hinted that he would like to win back-to-back CIF championships.
The youth of the Breakers allows for such dreams to take shape. Laguna Beach, a Division 3 team, has already shown itself to be competitive against a Division 1 playoff team, and the Breakers have just one senior in Webb.