Falling behind early wasn’t the game plan for the Laguna Beach High girls’ volleyball team in its CIF Southern Section Division I-A semifinal match against Dos Pueblos.
The Breakers did come back and make a match of it, however, before suffering a season-ending 25-23, 25-23, 25-13 loss at home Tuesday night. Laguna Beach (17-10) figured to need to play nearly flawless to hang with Dos Pueblos (29-2), ranked No. 7 in the ESPN Rise girls’ volleyball national rankings. That wasn’t the case as the visiting Chargers jumped out to 9-3 leads in both of the first two games, forcing the Breakers to try to claw back.
“Passing was the difference in the first two games," Laguna Beach Coach Lance Stewart said. “It’s tough to dig a hole like that against a good team and come all the way back. [Dos Pueblos] is pretty relentless. They’re the first team we played this year that I thought was a better serving team than we were."
Senior outside hitter Paulette Grand Pre capped a standout career with a team-high 15 kills against Dos Pueblos, and she also had a team-high 14 digs. Senior opposite Alex Rieckhoff had 10 kills, while junior outside Chanel Stewart and sophomore middle blocker Caroline Holte had four each.
Sophomore setter Allison Palmer had 26 assists and 12 digs.
“They were in control but we made it interesting," Stewart said. “We came back to 24-23 in both of the first two games. One play here or there and we could have been up, 2-0."
Dos Pueblos senior sisters Carly and Sam Wopat had 12 and 11 kills, respectively. The Wopat twins have committed to Stanford.
“They are some athletes," Stewart said. “They jump and hit the ball real hard, and make it difficult blocking-wise. Dos Pueblos is big and athletic, and it helps if you have big and athletic kids."
But Stewart said he was proud of his girls too. Laguna Beach had another solid year which included another Orange Coast League title, as well as advancing to at least the semifinals of CIF for the sixth straight year. Stewart also pointed to wins against quality teams like Corona del Mar, Huntington Beach and El Dorado, the latter coming in the CIF quarterfinals Saturday night.
Grand Pre had 19 kills and 33 digs as the Breakers got the win, 25-22, 20-25, 25-16, 25-19, on the road.
Huntington Beach will play Dos Pueblos for the Division I-A title at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Cypress College.
“I’m proud of the girls," Stewart said. “We’ve got around 950 kids and we’re playing against schools with two times that, or more. We won some nice matches and had a good year. We were right there."
After getting to the second round of the always-competitive CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs, Laguna dug in and nearly made it to the quarterfinals.
But Mira Costa had other ideas, toughing out a 10-8 win on Saturday that ended the Breakers’ team season.
“It was a very good season," Coach Alec Horton said. “With all our players being sick at one point or another we did exceptionally well."
Senior Maddie Jaeger shined even in the loss, sweeping her three singles sets over Mira Costa’s Casey Reede (6-4), Meagan Manasse (6-4) and Hanna McGuire (6-1).
“It was the best Maddie has played all year," Horton said. “Truly an amazing playoff performance."
The No. 1 doubles team of Lauren Michaels and Haley Moss also took two out of three sets for Laguna Beach (14-8). The match was tied, 3-3, after one-go round and still knotted up, 6-6, after two go-rounds. With the sets score at 8-8, Mira Costa barely won the final two sets on court. Reede edged Laguna freshman Taylor Nederlander, 7-6, and the Mira Costa No. 2 doubles team of Laura and Sara Derian edged Laguna’s Alison Azera and Aislin Elkin, also 7-6 in a tiebreaker.
The Breakers will still have some individuals competing this morning at CIF Individuals at Balboa Bay Club Racquet Club in Newport Beach. Orange Coast League singles champion Jaeger as well as the OCL doubles champs, Claire Jaeger and Bianca Sganga as well as the runners-up, Azera and senior McKenna Nokes.
Both the Breakers boys’ and girls’ squads competed in CIF Southern Section Division IV qualifying Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College.
The Laguna boys, the top-ranked Division IV team in the state, ran just three of their top seven runners since the race was just a qualifying race. Senior Blake Hofmeister placed first in 15 minutes, 50 seconds, followed by seniors Tommy Newton-Neal in sixth (16:37) and Sean Pigden in 15th (16:52).
Jeff White was 23rd in 17:03, followed by Aaron Swartz (17:10) in 28th and Alex Young (17:37) in 43rd.
Even while not racing all its varsity guys, Coach Dave Brobeck’s squad placed first in its heat and second overall to Harvard-Westlake in total team time. They’ll race in the Division IV finals AT 10:05 Saturday, also at Mt. SAC.
On the girls’ side, the Breakers finished third in their heat. They were paced by McKenna Nokes (fourth individually in the heat, 19:25); Natasha Strickland (10th, 19:40) and Parker Yamasaki (12th, 19:54).
Gerry Artman and teammate Beverly Ronses tied for 22nd in 20:50, and Marisa Merchant was 25th in 20:52.
Laguna senior Grace Komoroczy shot an 80 at the CIF Southern Section Girls’ Golf Individual Championships Nov. 12 at Talega Golf Club in San Clemente, two tournaments away from making the CIF state meet. The cut to advance to the WSCGA Southern California event was a 78.