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Newport Harbor girls’ volleyball continues hot start with win at Sage Hill

Newport Harbor celebrates a point against Sage Hill in a nonleague girls' volleyball match on Wednesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Just as it did for athletes that were able to compete in a coronavirus-impacted school year, the appreciation is evident for girls’ volleyball teams returning to the court for the first time in nearly two years.

Newport Harbor High‘s program did participate in some competition in the spring, but it was on the beach when protocols to mitigate the spread of the virus would not allow them to play in their gym.

Back to a more normalized setting, the Sailors are thriving early in the indoor girls’ volleyball season.

Senior outside hitters Emma Fults and Emma Coatsworth each had eight kills, as visiting Newport Harbor defeated Sage Hill 25-11, 25-15, 25-19 on Wednesday in a nonleague match.

Newport Harbor's Emma Fults hits against Sage Hill's Eva Alexander.
Newport Harbor’s Emma Fults hits against Sage Hill’s Eva Alexander.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Newport Harbor (3-0) has opened the season with three road victories. The Sailors also notched wins over Trabuco Hills and Woodbridge.

“It’s amazing,” Newport Harbor senior opposite Gabbi Higgs said. “It’s super nice, and all the girls are super energized and ready to go as far as we can this year, so we’re all really excited.”

Junior setter Tegan Glenn distributed 13 assists to go with two service aces. Senior setters Kate Bland and Deven Pence each handed out seven assists.

Junior outside hitter Quinn Perry had four kills and two aces. Junior outside hitter Anabel Kotzakov added four kills and two blocks, and senior middle blocker Anne O’Brien had three kills and two blocks.

Newport Harbor's Quinn Perry passes a ball during Wednesday's match.
Newport Harbor’s Quinn Perry passes a ball during Wednesday’s match.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Newport Harbor coach Dan Glenn said that he told his team in advance of the opener against Trabuco Hills that every player would play. Still, it was stunning to see all 15 players on the roster take the floor in the final set against the Lightning.

“It’s obviously really early in the year, and you have a group that basically would have had a full year of experience because all these [girls] that are playing were varsity players,” Glenn said. “We return almost our whole team from last year, but we didn’t get to play last year.

“We’re working on that part of it right now, the chemistry and all that, but the kids are working very, very hard. We’ve got a lot of talented players, and we got a really tough tournament this weekend, so we’ll see how we do.”

The Sailors will be playing in the California Challenge, hosted by Carlsbad La Costa Canyon, beginning Friday.

Sage Hill's Brooke Thomassen (8), left, Sophie Wang (7) and Audrey McGuff (2) celebrate winning a point.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Sage Hill was paced by junior outside hitter Brooke Thomassen, who authored six kills to go with six digs and three aces. Junior outside hitter Sophie Wang had five kills and three digs.

Junior Noe Lee also had six digs and an ace, and sophomore Lola Yeh had four kills for the Lightning in their season opener.

“For us, it’s been 21 months since we’ve had a gym match like this, and it feels like forever, so we really missed it last year,” Sage Hill coach Dan Thomassen said.

“Our kids really missed it. They made the most of last year in terms of beach training and grass training and weight-room training, and now I think we’re getting that reward of being patient [and] working hard.”

A special bond connected the two benches on Wednesday. Dan Thomassen, who graduated from Newport Harbor in 1993, played for Dan Glenn as a prep athlete.

“I played middle blocker in the 90s, and I owe him a lot for not just the volleyball, but also just the life lessons and just feel really lucky to be part of Newport’s history,” Thomassen said. “We’ve had amazing teams, and I was there in a really amazing time. I learned a lot, and I’ve carried it with me.”

Sage Hill's Brooke Thomassen hits against Newport Harbor's Emma Coatsworth.
Sage Hill’s Brooke Thomassen hits against Newport Harbor’s Emma Coatsworth.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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