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Laguna Beach girls’ volleyball loses at Foothill in CIF SoCal Regional Division I opener

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Laguna Beach’s Luisa LoFranco, left, and Piper Naess attempt to block a shot from Foothill’s Grace Chillingworth in the first round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs on Tuesday in Santa Ana.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

It had been nearly three weeks since the Laguna Beach High girls’ volleyball team had played a match.

As a CIF Southern Section Division 1 qualifier, the Breakers had earned the right to play in the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs.

Laguna Beach ran into a buzz saw on Tuesday night, and its season abruptly came to an end.

Rachel Fairbanks had 23 assists, seven kills and three service aces, leading No. 2-seeded Foothill to a 25-13, 25-19, 25-11 home sweep of the No. 15 Breakers in the first round of the CIF SoCal Regional tournament.

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Throughout the regional playoffs, the team with the higher seed will play at home. Coach Randy Post believes that bodes well for his Knights (26-5).

“I like playing here,” said Post, whose team advances to the next round to play No. 7 Aliso Niguel on Friday. “My girls feel very comfortable playing here. They feed off the fans. We’re a high-energy team, and if the fans are into it, my team is into it. I keep preaching to the bench, ‘We’ve got to have you guys fired up.’ They get fired up a lot.

“I like the fact that this path goes through our house, unless we get [top-seeded Chatsworth] Sierra Canyon. Then we have to go back to them again.”

Foothill and Sierra Canyon could meet in the regional final on Nov. 19, almost three weeks after the Trailblazers beat the Knights in the section quarterfinals.

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Foothill senior outside hitter Kelsy Rasmussen had nine kills against Laguna Beach. Junior outside hitter Grace Chillingworth had seven kills, and senior opposite Kendall Rios added six kills.

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Laguna Beach’s Luisa LoFranco hits into Foothill’s Fiona Hegarty in the first round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The Knights had seven blocks as a team, but they also managed to disrupt a great many swings by Laguna Beach (28-11). Rarely did the Breakers send the ball back to the other side of the net without the Knights getting a touch.

As a result, Foothill thrived off its ball control, giving Fairbanks options on second contact. Three times in the first set, she opted to dump the ball for a kill of her own.

“This is my first year running a 5-1 [offense],” said Fairbanks, who has committed to Pittsburgh. “In the beginning of the season, I was hesitant to dump.

“We’ve been training, and my coach encourages me to dump a lot. I feel like with him pushing me, I learned to just be more confident in dumping.”

Laguna Beach took a 10-7 lead in the first set, but a prolonged serving run vanquished any momentum the Breakers had established on the road. The Knights rattled off nine points in a row with Ella Aaberg at the service line.

“They just had too many service runs,” said Breakers coach Shawn Patchell, whose team also exited in the opening round of the section playoffs on Oct. 24, losing in five sets to Manhattan Beach Mira Costa. “[Aaberg] did a great job of serving. She did a great job [singing] the national anthem, and then she kept serving, so she did a nice job.”

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Piper Naess had a team-high seven kills for Laguna Beach. She had five of them in the second set as the Breakers tried to keep things close.

Soren Patchell distributed 17 assists, Sophie Reavis had six kills, and Cambria Hall added five kills for the Breakers. Middle blockers Kendall Fraser and Luisa LoFranco had three kills and 1½ blocks, respectively.

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Laguna Beach’s Cambria Hall digs a ball in the first round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs at Foothill on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

In some ways, comparisons could be drawn between the Breakers’ defeat and the straight-sets loss that Laguna Beach suffered against Sun Valley Village Christian in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 final last season.

“A little bit,” Shawn Patchell said when asked if Tuesday’s match reminded him of last year’s loss in the section finals. “When you don’t pass, it’s tough to play. We don’t have that big gun you can play when you’re not passing real well.

“I told the girls, ‘We don’t need to remember this one. We can remember all the other great stuff, [winning an undefeated Wave League title], all the great wins we had.’”

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