How often will the Newbury Park High girls’ volleyball team pull out close victories without breaking a sweat?
The Panthers, who have made a habit of staging big rallies amid unemotional play, toyed with Royal before a small crowd Tuesday night, then put away the Highlanders, 16-14, 15-7, 9-15, 10-15, 15-11 in a Marmonte League match at Newbury Park.
Despite finding themselves behind in each game, the Panthers practiced their own Bobby McFerrin-inspired philosophy, Don’t worry, be happy.
And, happily for the Panthers, who have 5 starters from last season’s Southern Section 2-A Division runner-up team, they have compiled the league’s best record.
Newbury Park (10-0, 6-0 in league play) beat Thousand Oaks, the two-time defending league champion, in 4 games Saturday to finish the first half of league play undefeated. The Panthers are ranked No. 4 in the latest 4-A poll.
“We were not really worried,” middle blocker Marlo Cormier said of Royal’s fourth-game rally. “We’ve always had confidence.”
Confidence? It looked more like apathy. While the Panthers were soft-shoeing their way through the third and fourth games, Coach Joe Wortmann was twisting on the sideline.
“When you win the first two games, you have a tendency to let down and say, ‘Oh, we’ve won,’ ” Wortmann said. “That’s what it seemed like we did. It was reminiscent of the semifinal match of last year.”
At the time, Newbury Park upset the cool, collected, more-experienced Highlanders in the 2-A semifinals after losing the first 2 games.
Sound familiar? Although the teams’ roles were reversed, it looked like a similar upset was imminent after Royal (8-2, 4-2) won the third and fourth games and started strongly in the fifth.
But Newbury Park, after falling behind, 2-1, scored 8 of the next 9 points to jump ahead, 9-3.
Royal, which has 8 underclassmen and starts 4 of them, tied the score, 10-10, but Highlander errors gave Newbury Park 4 of its last 5 points and the match.
“Another close one we lost,” said Royal Coach Bob Ferguson, whose team lost to Thousand Oaks in 5 games earlier this season.
Camille Mitchell led Newbury Park with 13 kills.