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Sage Hill boys’ volleyball opens with sweep over Ocean View

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Sage Hill’s Connor Martin hits against Ocean View’s Nathan Capelouto, left, and Jeremy Roe, right, during a nonleague match on Tuesday in Newport Beach.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

An early season meeting between the Ocean View High and Sage Hill boys’ volleyball teams may have appeared to have little consequence last year.

One thing that could be gleaned from the contest was that the value of returners could not be understated.

The Seahawks swept last season’s nonleague matchup, and they eventually made a surprising run to the CIF Southern Section Division 5 semifinals.

Sage Hill might hope that a similar turn of events is in store for it in Justin Johnson’s second season as the head coach.

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Step one was to turn the tables, which Sage Hill did in a 25-12, 25-19, 27-25 win over Ocean View at home on Tuesday night in a season opener.

Connor Martin had a match-high 11 kills for the Lightning, who did not have a single senior on the roster last season.

“I’m enjoying senior year, so it’s my last year out here,” Martin said. “I’m excited to play with my returners, Jackson [Bryant] and Amin [Sajjadian]. I’m excited to play with them. It’s my last year, so I’m just trying to have fun.”

Bryant produced nine kills, three service aces and a block. Sajjadian distributed 24 assists to go with three aces and 1½ blocks. August Neubauer chipped in with five kills and two blocks.

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Sage Hill’s Connor Martin (9) and Amin Sajjadian (4) congratulate Jackson Bryant (10) during a nonleague match against Ocean View on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Several members of the Sage Hill boys’ volleyball team also play basketball. Johnson said the team had held just one full practice so far.

Regardless, the ability to add to pieces that were already in place made jumping straight into match play a smoother transition.

“The nice part is that we had zero people graduate last year, so I know exactly where everyone was last year and where I want to put them and where their dimensionality is,” Johnson said. “Then [we have] the addition of some great new freshmen and some new people to our team, as well.

“It’s really allowed for me to be able to put them wherever I would like, and then also to have those options, and then to grow the program in total. Having a larger force behind us is really going to help us practice better so that we can play better.”

Crash Collier led the way in the first set for the Lightning, supplying all four of his kills in Game 1. Miles Bennett also had two kills in the match.

The majority of the points in the match were dictated by the Lightning. Bryant was pleased with his team controlling the action and spending more time playing in system.

“It’s really encouraging, just knowing that we have the baseline there,” Bryant said. “We’ve got a place to work from.”

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Both teams also came away from the match with things to work on. After several net violations, Seahawks coach Joshua Nehls asked his players to pretend that the net was an electric fence to discourage making contact with it.

Nathan Capelouto had a team-high eight kills for Ocean View. Ethan Hilario added four kills, and Jeremy Roe had three aces.

The Seahawks have only one returning starter from last season in libero Aimar Herrera. Andrew Hovis was also on varsity, but he is now setting after the position was previously handled by Hunter Miller (Briar Cliff University).

“I think we did fairly well being consistent, which brings me hope because we’re playing consistently,” Nehls said. “If we can just get rid of those unforced errors, then we can actually start to earn some games.”

Coming off a run to the semifinals, Ocean View moved up to Division 4. This season, Nehls said he will base his expectations on the eye test.

“I just try to dictate every year as a new year, especially knowing that it is a brand new team,” Nehls added. “I feel like we’re starting from the bottom, and I’m not going to expect anything higher than where they’re at from anybody.

“I’m not going to expect Andrew to be Hunter Miller. I’m going to see what Andrew has got, and then base the next day off of what I saw today.”

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Sage Hill’s Carter Bryant, left, and Finn McClintock, center, go up to block a shot by Ocean View’s Nathan Capelouto during a nonleague match on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)
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