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Laguna drops close match

In a match in which you would expect both teams to leave it all on the line, host and fourth-seeded Dos Pueblos was able to sneak past No. 5-seed Laguna Beach, 25-18, 25-27, 26-24, 26-24, last Friday in the CIF-Southern Section Division II playoffs at Goleta.

At stake for both teams was a berth in the semifinals which were played Wednesday.

Friday’s quarterfinal round match was as intense as the final scores indicate.

“What you like to be able to do is put yourself in position to win, and we were in a position to win this match,” Laguna Coach Lance Stewart said. “There was never a turning point in this match. It was just two teams going toe-to-toe.

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“We did a great job of battling all the way in a hostile environment.”

After splitting the first two games, Laguna took a 21-20 lead on a kill by senior outside hitter Blair Bigelow. On the play, however, Bigelow came down hard and injured his knee. The injury forced Bigelow, who just recorded his 12th kill on the go-ahead point, to leave the game.

Stewart said Bigelow returned to play just one point toward the end of the fourth game but collapsed due to pain.

He never returned again.

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“Basically, he was unstoppable out there until that injury,” Stewart said. “It was tough to lose Blair but our guys still battled.”

Bigelow wasn’t the only Breaker to go down.

Opposite Mike Kahl injured himself chasing down a live ball in that same third game, with the score tied at 22. Kahl crashed into the chairs that made up the Laguna bench and left the game.

Kahl did come back to play in the fourth game but, as Stewart said, was “not much of a factor.”

Stewart had said that Kahl was coming off perhaps the best match of his career on May 15 when he finished with 11 kills, six digs and three blocks, in a second-round win over San Luis Obispo.

Dos Pueblos took advantage of those two injuries to win both the third and fourth games by identical 26-24 scores.

“We pushed them in those games and had our chances,” Stewart said. “I looked out on the floor in that fourth game and we had two sophomores (Cooper Gwaltney and Seth Morris) and four juniors (Kahl, Shawn Merz, Clay Knapp and Lorenzo Torriero). Those guys really played tough.

“This team improved from start to finish this year. It never quit. I think these guys are real hungry to get going for next year.”

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