Corona del Mar High and Laguna Beach have traditionally had really strong girls’ volleyball programs, making their one scheduled match on Wednesday night one that would be marked on calendars.
This season, however, has seen both teams struggle to put up wins from the outset.
As the matches pile up, each successive one seems to rise in importance, and it was Laguna Beach that rose to the occasion when the match went the distance in a Sunset Conference crossover match.
Cambria Hall had a team-high 16 kills, and the visiting Breakers rallied past the Sea Kings 25-22, 21-25, 14-25, 25-21, 15-12.
Laguna Beach (3-6) had lost six of its last seven matches, including back-to-back road sweeps last week at Foothill and Edison.
“It was really good, especially because we’ve kind of been on a losing streak,” Breakers freshman setter Natalia Hagopian said of the win. “We’ve been playing really tough teams, and this is the win that we needed to keep our team pushing forward throughout league.”
The Sea Kings had taken control by wearing out the left side. Outside hitter Nikki Senske had 13 kills, eight of which helped CdM (9-11) take the second and third sets.
Having lost four consecutive five-set matches earlier this season, the Breakers were certainly no stranger to adversity. For the first time this year, Laguna Beach ended up on the right side of the scoreboard after a match went to the fifth set.
Piper Naess and Jackie Strawn threw up the double block against Kendall Kipp, who swung away from five feet off the net and had her blast denied. The block clinched the match for the Breakers.
“I’m proud of the development,” Breakers coach Shawn Patchell said. “You want to just keep improving. It’s hard to go on the road, to Edison and Foothill last week. For the most part, the girls have just stayed in there and battled and believed in each other.
“I’m really happy for them because we’ve lost some tough ones. We’ve really battled. We’ve played really good volleyball, but it’s hard when you get an ‘L’ at the end of the night.”
So what turned around the match for Laguna Beach after CdM easily took the third set?
“I think that we knew that it wasn’t the end of the game,” Hall said. “There was still a lot of game left. It’s not just because they killed us by a ton of points that gave them momentum.
“We were the ones making the errors, and we weren’t siding out the way that we should have been.”
Hall suggested that the Breakers realized that they needed to pick up their play. Patchell said that junior libero Hallie Carballo was one of the players to do so.
“She wasn’t as sharp as she usually is, but … she stood in there and she passed great at the end of the match, especially,” Patchell said. “It takes toughness. She kept grinding, and it was good at the end.”
Naess had 13 kills and Ella Tyus added nine kills for the Breakers, who will host Los Alamitos on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Sea Kings coach Steve Astor felt that his team let the Breakers off the hook by not jumping out to a lead in Game 4.
“Give credit to Laguna,” Astor said. “They fought hard, and they’ve been in a lot of five-setters, so it wasn’t a big deal for them. They just moved on after the third set pretty fast.
“We made a big mistake letting down our guard early in the fourth set. I thought that if we had gotten off to a quick lead, then we had a good chance of taking it there.”
Kipp led CdM with 20 kills and six digs. Bella Pouliot finished with 44 assists, and Michelle Won had 16 digs.
One aspect that the Sea Kings excelled in was their blocking. Astor said the team’s 12 blocks were easily a season high.
Tatiana Bruening had five kills and four blocks, and Molly Joyce had five kills and 3½ blocks.
Wednesday’s loss was a costly one for CdM. The Sea Kings have been hovering around the .500 mark, but they dropped to 9-11 overall heading into a home match on Thursday against Marina at 5:30 p.m.