Surf League girls’ volleyball has brought the promise of high drama in a little over a year of existence.
Last season, the remaining three teams finished in a tie for second place behind inaugural league champion Corona del Mar High.
Huntington Beach hosted Edison on Thursday night in a matchup of two of those teams, who know all too well the pressure that a six-match league schedule can bring.
Junior middle blocker Olivia Carlton had nine kills and 4½ blocks to lead the Oilers to a 25-21, 25-18, 25-21 sweep of the Chargers in a Surf League opener.
“It wasn’t the cleanest volleyball, but any league game, our goal is to defend our home court and try to steal some on the road in league,” Oilers coach Craig Pazanti said. “I think we did that to start it off.
“We’ve only got five more league matches, which is kind of crazy. Every match counts. It’s like when you’re in the NFL, a two- or three-game losing streak when there are only 16 games is a lot different than Major League Baseball where there are 162 [games].”
Huntington Beach (20-8) had lost four of its last seven matches coming into league play, but it has only lost one best-of-five match this season. The Oilers will remain home for their next match on Tuesday against Los Alamitos (12-5, 0-1 in league).
Edison (10-8) will be at home against CdM (11-3, 1-0) on Tuesday.
Senior opposite Xolani Hodel had a match-high 10 kills for the Oilers. Senior setter Jaclyn Sanchez handed out 24 assists to go with 1½ blocks. Junior outside hitter Sabrina Phinizy had four kills, and sophomore middle blocker Sydney Murrey added three kills.
Pazanti also put Yazmin Lopez, a junior transfer from Mater Dei, in the starting lineup at outside hitter. After honoring the 30-day sit-out period, Lopez (two kills, one service ace and one block) played in just her second match with Huntington Beach.
“She’s not a huge offensive weapon for us, but she adds a ton of ball control, and she is a really good passer,” Pazanti said of Lopez.
Middle blocker Summer Hanks had eight kills and three blocks to lead the Chargers. Opposite Koral Newman also had eight kills to go with 1½ blocks, while setter Emily Sparks had 17 assists and six kills.
Edison middle blocker Megan Swartz contributed five kills and four blocks. Outside hitters Kelly McCloskey and Nikki Logan each finished with four kills.
Despite putting up a formidable block, Edison was done in by 11 hitting errors and three service errors in the first set.
“Our passing, we struggled with,” first-year Chargers coach Colleen Burke said. “We tried to get into a groove early, but it was something that we definitely need to keep working on so that we can keep our hitters in system.
“It’s our first time seeing [Huntington Beach], but now we have a good idea of what we’re going to be up against.”
Carlton took back the net for the Oilers in Game 2, contributing four kills and 2½ blocks.
“I felt like I just needed to put some hands up there and press over more,” Carlton said. “I was really more focused on that in the second set.”
The Oilers finished off the straight-sets victory behind five kills from Carlton and four kills from Hodel in the third set. Sanchez also popped out to the right side for a kill off an assist from junior setter Alex Williams, giving Huntington Beach more breathing room with a 23-19 lead.
“It was kind of a matter of staying in the game,” Hodel said of what her team gained from the league opener. “Making sure we were all focused in that third set because that seems to be one of our struggles.”
Support our sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.