COSTA MESA — At 6-foot-3, Estancia High junior middle blocker Abby Griffith towers over much of the competition on the volleyball court.
On Wednesday at Costa Mesa High, Griffith and her 6-foot freshman sister, Emma, made sure the Eagles once again stood tall against the rival Mustangs.
The Griffith sisters combined for 17 kills as Estancia beat Costa Mesa for the second time in Orange Coast League play. They again swept, 25-12, 25-18, 25-18.
The second and third sets were competitive, but not enough to stop the Eagles from beating the Mustangs for the 18th straight time.
"I think Mesa, for their seniors, it's their last [match against Estancia]," said Abby Griffith, who had seven kills and three service aces. "I think they really tried hard, and it was really fun to play a competitive match. I was excited for our seniors to have a good last match against Mesa."
Griffith is relatively new to the rivalry. This is her first year playing for the Eagles, after she transferred from Orange Lutheran in the middle of her sophomore year.
Her mother, Jenny, was on hand to watch the action, and she is more familiar with the other big Newport-Mesa rivalry. Jenny Griffith, then known as Jenny Evans, was a star outside hitter at Newport Harbor High and later UCLA. She was named national Co-Player of the Year by Volleyball Monthly her senior year, when she helped the Sailors win the 1987 CIF Southern Section Division 5-A title by defeating rival CdM in five games. The Sailors made the state Division 1 title match, where they fell to Irvine. Jenny later captured an
Jenny's husband, Brian, was a punter at LSU. But their daughters are well on their way to shining athletically on their own terms.
They've mixed well with the team's other pieces. Emma, an outside hitter like her mother, had a match-high 10 kills in Wednesday's match. Estancia junior Chloe Davis and sophomore Eliza Jason each had four kills. Jason's older sister, senior Gianna Jason, had three kills and two solo blocks, and junior Jackie Hubbard tied for the team lead with three aces.
Estancia senior libero Charlotte Gaitan had 11 digs and senior setter Ilene Umansky consistently set up her teammates, helping the Eagles (7-8, 4-2 in league) remain in third place in league. They are on pace for their third CIF playoff berth in Coach Paul Muñoz's three seasons.
The Eagles shook off Monday's tough loss to second-place Calvary Chapel, in which they lost the match after winning the first two sets.
"This team is something special," Muñoz said. "They mesh better than any team I've ever coached here. It's actually a young group of girls, and the seniors that are here are real receptive to being senior leaders."
Costa Mesa (3-7, 0-6), which wore pink warm-up shirts and pink socks for
Witter tried to fire her team up with a motivational speech after the first set. Mesa did appear to improve its play, particularly in the third set, when the Mustangs led as late as 14-13. But Emma Griffith had three kills out of five points to help the Eagles rally. They went on to grab a 19-15 lead and later finished off the match.
Mesa senior setter Amelia Taylor said the match was more competitive than the teams' first league meeting, won by Estancia, 25-14, 25-19, 25-12.
"It was a fight," Taylor said. "We did give it our best effort. I love it; [this team] is like my family. We get along really well, and we support each other in everything that we do."
The Eagles next play at defending champion Laguna Beach, which is the top-ranked team in Division 1-A, on Tuesday. Muñoz said he expects a good match; last time the Breakers swept but the last two sets were close, 25-12, 25-22, 25-22.
The Griffith sisters will continue to enjoy themselves.
"It's so fun," Abby Griffith said. "It's fun to be at a place where everyone's just excited to play volleyball and it's not their whole lives, you know what I mean? It's really fun playing with people who love the sport. Everyone's just as invested as they are at OLu. It hasn't been a huge change for me.
"The volleyball's great [at Estancia]. I love my team."