Deciding fifth sets haunted the Laguna Beach High girls’ volleyball team last season.
Last fall, the Breakers went 2-6 in matches that went the distance, including a season-ending defeat at home against Quartz Hill in the second round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division II tournament.
So when Dana Hills stormed back to win the fourth set convincingly on Wednesday night, the Breakers could have given themselves every reason to panic.
They did not.
For the second time in three days, Laguna Beach defeated Dana Hills. The Breakers edged the visiting Dolphins 25-18, 21-25, 25-17, 17-25, 15-13 in their nonleague home opener.
Laguna Beach (8-0) also defeated Dana Hills 22-25, 25-13, 15-8 in the Tesoro Tournament final on Monday.
Senior middle blocker Kendall Fraser had nine kills and seven blocks, including a rejection to clinch the match.
“I think it was really satisfying to end on a block because blocks are sometimes hard to come by,” Fraser said. “I think it was a great win. I think everyone is still kind of on a high from winning that.”
Senior outside hitter Piper Naess had 15 kills and 20 digs, and sophomore opposite Sophie Reavis added 15 kills and 17 digs for the Breakers.
Senior setter Soren Patchell, a UC Irvine commit, had 53 assists while running a 5-1 offense. Laguna Beach often deploys a 6-2 offense when Patchell and Natalia Hagopian are on the court together.
“You just have to come out and have the mindset of keeping the team together, since you are running a 5-1 instead of a 6-2,” Patchell said. “You have a lot more responsibility, so it’s good to just keep your hitters on top of it, knowing what we’re running at all times, whether it’s a free ball or down ball.”
Fraser said that Patchell did a good job of helping the Breakers establish the middle, which allowed the Breakers to open up their outside hitters. Junior middle blocker Luisa LoFranco finished with six kills.
Senior outside hitter Cambria Hall had 13 kills and seven digs, and junior outside hitter Ella Tyus added 13 digs.
The return of senior libero Hallie Carballo from a toe injury also gave Laguna Beach a boost for its two matches against Dana Hills. She was reinserted into the lineup on Monday after being sidelined for two months.
Breakers coach Shawn Patchell said that Carballo was the exemplary team player while she was out.
“She’s been fighting an injury, but I think the thing that is most important for me is that she has been a great teammate when she is not playing,” he said. “It’s no fun to come to practice and not get to play.
“She’s been coming to practice and encouraging the girls and keeping score. That means a ton. Then, you don’t feel any regrets when you put her in.”
Laguna Beach jumped to a 4-0 lead in Game 5, and Patchell liked the response that he saw from his team after it dropped the fourth set.
“We talk about winning the mini games to five [points], and we did that,” Patchell added. “That was good, and we did it with a lot of energy.”
Hunter Riedl had 14 kills and 2½ blocks, and Vani Topalian had 10 kills and 4½ blocks to lead the Dolphins (5-3).
Carballo had 16 digs, helping the Breakers to extend points, and ultimately, to get a crucial early lead in the final set.
“We just came out with the mindset that everything starts at 0-0, and if we get behind, just keep working through it and act like we’re not behind,” Carballo said. “Basically, go out there and give it our all, no matter what the score is.”
Support our sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.