With the CIF Southern Section playoffs looming in the coming week, the Laguna Beach High boys' volleyball team gained some postseason momentum by earning an important and impressive victory Wednesday.
In a nonleague matchup between two of the top-ranked teams in Division 2, No. 3 Laguna came back from an opening set loss to defeat No. 2 and visiting Esperanza, 20-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-17, at Dugger Gym.
The win was the 20th of the season for Breakers, who improved to 20-5 overall.
Tuesday's match completed regular-season play for Laguna.
Esperanza, which won the Division 2 title a year ago and beat Laguna in five sets on the final day of the 2013 regular season, fell to 19-5.
"This was a really good win for us," Coach Darren Utterback said. "There were a couple of times where things were not going our way, but our guys stuck through it. I thought we responded really well to some tough stretches in the match."
Senior outside hitter Jack Wyett had 16 kills and senior middle blocker Noah Blanton had 15 kills and two solo blocks in the fourth set. Senior outside hitter Lucas Capobianco had six, big digs in the final set, senior libero JP Wollam finished with 15 digs and senior setter Alec Wulff with 40 assists.
"I saw a really good team effort out there," Utterback said. "Our passing and defense were remarkably good and Alec Wulff just did a really great job. You wouldn't know by watching [Wulff] that he's only been playing setter for a few weeks. It's a tough position to play.
"I'm just super-proud of the guys and the effort they gave."
One day earlier, Laguna completed a 10-0 Orange Coast League championship season Tuesday by sweeping its way to a 25-19, 25-12, 25-16 at Costa Mesa. Wyett had 12 kills, Blanton eight kills, Wollam 10 digs and Wulff 16 assists.
The Breakers have now won 146 consecutive league sets, dating to its last league set loss to Costa Mesa in the 2009 season. They are now 73-1 all-time in the OCL, their only loss coming during the 2008 season in a five-set loss at Calvary Chapel.
Laguna, which has won its last 58 OCL matches, improved to 64-1 all-time in its five-sets series with Costa Mesa.
Laguna previously competed at the two-day, Redondo Union Varsity Classic which ended Saturday. The Breakers played six matches, finished 4-2, and placed 10th among 32 teams.
The Breakers went undefeated in pool play May 2, defeating La Jolla (25-21, 25-17), Santa Monica (25-19, 25-16, and El Segundo (25-18, 25-17). They moved on to the Gold Division Round of 16 Saturday where they fell, 25-18, 21-25, 15-13, to a Dana Hills team they had defeated in a nonleague game April 25, but bounced back to sweep Servite (25-23, 25-11) in the ninth-place semifinal game.
In the ninth-place game Saturday, El Segundo got even with the Breakers by taking a 26-24, 25-15 win.
Huntington Beach, the top-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division 1, went 7-0 and won the tournament title. The Oilers, defending Division 1 champion and winners of 56 straight matches, swept San Clemente, 2-0, in Saturday's final.
The Laguna boys' volleyball program will play host to its annual alumni match at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
The next step in the season for Laguna is the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs. Division pairings will be released Friday. With Tuesday's win, the Breakers figure to land one of the division's top seeds.
Wild-card matches are Saturday, and OCL champ Laguna will play host to a 7 p.m. first-round match Tuesday.
The CIF Southern Section Division 2 final is 4:30 p.m. May 24 at Cerritos College in Norwalk.
Three Breakers, John Grayden, Tyler Metez and Max Brown, qualified for the Orange Coast League postseason tournament held Monday and Tuesday at Skylinks Golf Course in Long Beach.
In Monday's first round of competition, Grayden shot 79, Brown 81, and Metez 83. The scores from Tuesday for the Laguna trio saw Grayden shoot 78, Metez 79 and Brown 83.
Grayden shot his way to a second-place league finish with a two-day total of 157, behind Daniel Dimaculangan (150 score) of Calvary Chapel who won the tournament. Metez (162) placed seventh and Brown (164) finished 10th.
Laguna Coach Scott Finn said that Grayden qualified for and will compete in a 1:30 p.m. shotgun Monday at the CIF Southern Section Southern Individual Regional at Skylinks.
Laguna, as a team, didn't qualify for the CIF Southern Section team playoffs, which start May 19. The Breakers ended the year 11-5 overall and went 4-6 in OCL competition.
"Our guys played great and finished the year strong," Finn said. "I am very proud of them"
Track and Field
The Breakers played host to the Orange Coast League prelims meet Monday. League finals were Thursday, but finals results weren't available at press time.
Key placements for the Breakers at Monday's prelims meet included: Girls' 1,600 meter run: 1. Pearl Shoemaker (5:19.15), 2. Kirsten Landsiedel (5:34.57), 3. Brenna Merchant (5:20.95), 4. Natatlie Kimball (5:40.89); Girls' 100 meter hurdles: 1. Aylin Saran (19.00); Girls' 400 meter run: 1. Lauren McDonnell (1:09.56), 2. Amy Hewlett (1:06.23); Girls' 800 meter run: 1. Janie Crawford (2:23.27); 2. Brielle Budroe (2:27.30), 3. Natalie Kimball (2:32.22); Girls' 3,200 meter run: 1. Kirsten Landsiedel (11:21.00); 2. Brenna Merchant (11:21.00); 3. Pearl Shoemaker (11:32.00); 4. Ana Kelly (12:15.00); 5. Taylor Alvarez (12:15.00); 6. Lauryn Alvarez (12:15.00), 7. Greer Jacobs (12:15.00).
Laguna will compete May 17 at the CIF Southern Section Division 4 prelims meet at Carpinteria High.
The division finals are May 24 at Cerritos College.
Laguna competed Wednesday at the Orange Coast League finals meet. Team and individual results weren't available at press time.
The CIF Southern Section swimming and diving divisional prelims are next Wednesday, Thursday and May 16 at the Riverside Aquatics Complex.
The Breakers competed Wednesday and Thursday at the Orange Coast League Tournament at the Costa Mesa Tennis Center. Results from the tournament weren't available at press time.
Laguna played three matches prior to the OCL tournament. The Breakers completed a perfect run (8-0) to the league championship by winning, 17-1, over Costa Mesa. They dropped nonleague matches to Newport Harbor (14-4) and Palm Springs (12-6).
"We played well against Newport Harbor and adjusted well to the very windy conditions, but, unfortunately, lost four tiebreakers in doubles," Laguna Coach Don Davis said. "We played well against Costa Mesa but we did not play well against Palm Springs."
The pairings for the CIF Southern Section boys' tennis playoffs will be announced Monday. Laguna, a league champion, will play at home in a first-round match at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
CIF Weekly Rankings
Boys' volleyball: Laguna Beach (No. 3, Division 2).