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Big statement made

OK, you knew that there might be some type of letdown on Tuesday (Oct. 16) at Dugger Gym.

In three of the previous four days prior to Tuesday’s match against Calvary Chapel, the Laguna Beach girls’ volleyball team had gone through a gantlet of games, playing five intense, best-of-three matches against some of the top programs in the state.

First, the Breakers competed at the two-day Torrey Pines California Challenge. On Monday, they played a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown against rival and second-ranked Corona del Mar.

With that three-day slugfest behind them, the Breakers came back Tuesday to host Calvary Chapel, an Orange Coast League rival they were favored to beat.

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The Eagles, however, hung tough and battled to the end yet a Laguna team that was somewhat off a times during the match, still had enough in the tank to win by sweep, 25-19, 25-14, 25-21.

The win puts defending champion Laguna at 2-0 in league.

“We played OK,” Laguna Coach Lance Stewart said. “We’ve had a long stretch the past five games leading up to today’s match. It’s hard for a team to stay at a level of intensity that we were at for Torrey Pines and yesterday (Monday) against Corona del Mar.

“Calvary Chapel has some good volleyball players. They have some girls who can dig and hit the ball. They were fired up to play us today.”

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Laguna was ahead 17-14 in game one before pulling away, securing a 25-19 win behind three consecutive kills by outside hitter Dana Hutchinson, a player whom Stewart said was “steady all match.”

In the second game, the score was tied at 5-5 before the Breakers reeled off four straight points to open up a 9-5 lead, and the Eagles never got within three points again.

Calvary Chapel was poised to win the third game. Fighting back from a 12-9 deficit, they took the lead at 14-13 and then scored four consecutive points to break a 15-15 tie to open up a 19-15 advantage. Laguna caught the Eagles at 21-21 on a kill by Hutchinson, then took the lead for keeps (22-21) on another kill by Hutchinson. Consecutive kills by Paulette Grand Pre made it 24-21 and Hutchinson wrapped up the match and a tough five-day swing, with her final kill.

At the Torrey Pines California Challenge that began last Friday and concluded Saturday, Laguna finished as the top Orange County team — Edison, Esperanza, San Clemente and Tesoro also competed at the 24-team event — in the tournament.

The Breakers won three of four matches to earn an overall finish of 5th place, and it is the second year in a row that Laguna has finished as the top county team in the event.

Laguna, No. 1 in the CIF-Southern Section Division II-AA poll, began the tournament with a 25-10, 25-16, 25-22 win over Stockdale (16-6), the No. 5-ranked team in CIF-Central Section Division I. The Breakers then came up with a stirring win over Carlsbad, ranked third in the CIF-San Diego Section’s Division I, rallying from two games down to pull out a 19-25, 28-30, 25-20, 25-19, 17-15 win over Lancers (18-6).

Laguna, Stockdale and Carlsbad all were in the same pool, where Laguna was seeded second to Carlsbad.

On Saturday, it was an early start — 8 a.m. — for the Breakers and their opponent, Archbishop Mitty (21-1). Laguna led 21-20 in the first game but had a lift call on a set play go against them that allowed the Monarchs’ to tie the score. The Breakers went on to lose that game, 25-21, then dropped the next two games by scores of 25-12 and 25-21.

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Mitty, ranked 25th nationally by PrepVolleyball.com, went on to place second to in the tournament to Mira Costa, the nation’s top-ranked team.

In the fifth-place game Saturday against Vista Murrieta, Laguna beat the Broncos (23-2) in five games, 25-21, 25-22, 22-25, 19-25, 15-10.

Vista Murrieta is ranked fifth in the CIF-SS Division I-AA poll.

“We won some tough matches at Torrey Pines,” Stewart said. “We beat a good Stockdale team, and I was really proud of the way the girls battled back from two games down to beat Carlsbad. We had a tough, early-morning match against Mitty and then did a real nice job of beating Vista Murrieta in five.”

Laguna came back Monday to take on Corona del Mar in a battle between longtime rivals and the top two-ranked teams in the CIF-SS Division II-AA poll. The No. 1-ranked Breakers fell in the first game, 26-24, but came back to win the next three by scores of 25-23, 25-18, 25-16.

Hutchinson had 27 kills and 20 digs in that match, Piper Obradovich had 18 kills, Paige Obradovich had 10 digs and Alex Palmer 55 set assists.

“It was tough to come in and play a team like Corona on Monday, coming off that big weekend tournament,” Stewart said. “We were rusty in that first game. We had six blocking errors, four missed serves and five serve receiving errors.

“But we came back and got in control. The key for us is to control that first ball. When we do that, we’re a very good team.”

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In Tuesday’s win over Calvary Chapel, sophomore Alex Rieckhoff started at setter for the injured Palmer, Laguna’s normal starter who was nursing a thigh injury. Rieckhoff also started the first four games at setter in the fifth-place tournament match against Vista Murrieta.

“She did a real nice job,” Stewart said. “For being on the frosh/soph team last year to making the jump to varsity this year, she’s really doing well. She’s getting in some good playing time.”

Laguna was scheduled to play at Costa Mesa today, but Stewart said that the league match has been rescheduled for 4:30 p.m. Monday (Oct. 22) at Costa Mesa.



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