Critics of the current Sunset Conference structure might say that if teams are going to move up and down between the Surf League and Wave League, it should happen every year.
As of now, the leagues are reevaluated for any necessary changes every two years, and that leaves the Laguna Beach High girls’ volleyball team in the Wave League, the supposed lower tier of the conference.
In spite of that, no one will be underestimating the Breakers, who advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 3 championship match and lost to Sun Valley Village Christian a year ago.
Laguna Beach had only one senior in opposite Gretchen Webb on that team, making the Breakers one of the more experienced squads this year.
Coming into the Dave Mohs Memorial Tournament this weekend, Laguna Beach was ranked No. 12 in the section’s Division 1 and 2 combined poll, and the Breakers put together yet another strong showing.
Laguna Beach was the last Orange County team standing, falling to No. 3 Los Angeles Marymount in the Gold Bracket semifinals 25-14, 25-20 on Saturday at Edison High.
Sophomore opposite Sophie Reavis had six kills, two aces and one block to lead the Breakers (14-4). Soren Patchell had 18 assists, and Piper Naess added five kills.
“I thought we were good,” Breakers coach Shawn Patchell said. “We’re taking some steps. We’re a nice team. It doesn’t matter who we play, we’ve got a chance.
“I think when we’re serving the ball well and playing defense behind a disciplined block, we have a chance to beat anybody.”
Laguna Beach lost Natalia Hagopian to an ankle injury in a play-in match against South Jordan Bingham of Utah. Patchell said that Hagopian had an X-ray taken later in the day, and there was no fracture for the sophomore setter.
The Breakers went 4-2 in the tournament, including a second final-set victory over Trabuco Hills in a five-day span.
“I think I was pretty confident because we won the Tesoro Tournament,” Reavis said. “We had played some of the teams before, so I think just focusing on what we knew about each team, we just really utilized that when we played, and I thought we did really well.”
In the quarterfinals, Laguna Beach was up a set on Trabuco Hills, but the Breakers fell behind 13-5 in Game 2. Laguna Beach won six straight points on Soren Patchell’s serve, bringing its deficit to 24-23, before a net violation allowed the Mustangs to even the match at a set apiece.
Still, the momentum had turned, and the Breakers bench had gotten into the match. In Game 3, the Breakers sideline broke into a “side out” chant while the players kneeled on top of each other in a human pyramid.
Luisa LoFranco emerged from the bottom of the pile and entered the lineup for the Breakers. She had 2½ blocks and a kill in the final set, as Laguna Beach defeated Trabuco Hills 25-18, 23-25, 15-11.
“In our past games, we really noticed that when the bench gets really excited, we’ve been doing hoists, we’ve been doing cartwheels and pyramids,” LoFranco said. “That really helps the [team] feel that they can win and they can do it.
“I didn’t play the first set, and when I went in the second half of the second set, I just realized that I need to make an impact, and I need to help our team win.”
Marymount edged No. 6 Manhattan Beach Mira Costa in the Gold Bracket final 25-21, 25-23. Sophomore outside hitter Elia Rubin led the Sailors with 10 kills.
Sailors coach Cari Klein played for Dave Mohs with Orange County Volleyball Club.
“I was just thinking last night, ‘What a great guy and a super name for a tournament in his honor,’ ” Klein said. “He changed a lot of kids’ lives for a lot of years.”
Klein added that the tournament field was strong, and she hopes her team’s success is a harbinger of things to come.
“It’s really exciting because these are all such great CIF teams,” Klein said. “This is all CIF. This is our division, and these are the teams that we will have to play in playoffs, so it’s very relevant to the playoffs.”
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