LAGUNA BEACH "” After a ho-hum first game Tuesday night, the Laguna Beach High girls’ volleyball team appeared well on its way to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1A playoffs.
Visiting Hart had other ideas. And, though the Breakers still swept, things got dicey in the second and third games of a 25-10, 25-22, 25-19 victory.
Laguna Beach (15-9) moved on to the second round, where it played at Northwood Thursday night after press time. If the Breakers topped Northwood, they’ll play either Paso Robles at home or at El Dorado in the quarterfinals Saturday night.
Hart, the third-place team out of the Foothill League, was a tough enough opponent. The Breakers were up 24-17 in Game 2 before the Indians’ Breena Beckett started her own personal block party. Four of the next five points ended in Beckett blocks as Hart (12-5) climbed back within 24-22, before a miscommunication led to a Breakers point and a 2-0 games lead.
“You just can’t relax," Laguna Beach Coach Lance Stewart said.
“At this point in the season, any team you’re playing is capable of going on a 10-point run. We’ve just got to keep our focus and commitment. You try and commit everything to each point."
Hart also hung around in Game 3, which was tied at 18-18 until Laguna Beach senior Alex Rieckhoff, headed to Brown University, served up four straight points. Included in that string was a service ace, one of her match-high three aces, then a crazy dig where she somehow got her hand underneath the ball at the last second.
“I had no idea how I got that one," said Rieckhoff, who also had seven kills and 10 digs, in between coughs. She’s one of several Breakers who has been battling sickness.
“We let them get a little too close," she said. “We missed our serves. But they’re a good opponent."
Senior Paulette Grand Pre, headed for William & Mary, had team-highs of 18 kills and 16 digs. Sophomore middle Caroline Holte and junior outside Chanel Stewart had six kills each, and sophomore setter Allison Palmer dished out 33 assists.
Laguna Beach has made it to at least the CIF semifinals for five straight years. But, if the Breakers want to match that this year, they’ll need to beat Northwood then perhaps a solid El Dorado team. El Dorado, the Century League champion, is the fourth-seeded team in the bracket.
“It is what it is," Lance Stewart said. “We’re in the half with El Dorado and Dos Pueblos, but we’ve got a lot of work to do to get close to playing either of those two [teams]."