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Newport Harbor tops Huntington Beach in sand volleyball match

Newport Harbor's Annie O'Brien tips one over the net for a point during a beach volleyball match against Huntington Beach.
Newport Harbor High’s Annie O’Brien tips one over the net for a point during a beach volleyball match against Huntington Beach on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Since youth sports guidelines have allowed for the return of outdoor sports, a mad scramble has ensued to provide opportunities for high school athletes to get back on the field with their teams.

While the guidance did no favors to girls’ volleyball, an indoor fall sport for which time was running out, some were unwilling to take the total loss of a season for an answer.

The solution was to bring the sport outdoors, which made for quite a scene on Thursday as Newport Harbor High School took on Huntington Beach on the sand at Grant Street in Newport Beach.

Quinn Perry had seven kills and three blocks, as Newport Harbor swept Huntington Beach 25-20, 25-22, 29-27 in a Sunset League sand volleyball match.

The league has scheduled matches up to March 20, the date of the CIF State championships for girls’ volleyball in CIF’s revised sports calendar. Fall sports playoffs were scrapped by the Southern Section in an effort to help schools schedule more contests.

Huntington's Allie Bjork gets a kill past Anabel Kotzakov (19) and Bree Anderson (4) of Newport Harbor.
Huntington’s Allie Bjork gets a kill past Anabel Kotzakov (19) and Bree Anderson (4) of Newport Harbor.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“The rallies are long out here,” Sailors coach Dan Glenn said. “You just got to be patient, but it’s really good for … transferring that into indoor, the flow of the game and being able to focus for extended periods of time because the rallies are so long.

“You’ve really got to turn your brain on and do all the little things, so that’s one of the reasons I really like it.”

About the only aspect consistent with the environment of an indoor volleyball match was the number of players on the court. As opposed to playing in pairs, the teams played six-on-six on the beach.

The match was accompanied by some traveling fans who primarily stayed on the ocean side of the court, while some at a nearby beachside residents chose to sunbathe while taking in the action.

Even the tools used for officiating were different, as an automated whistle was employed to signal the end of each point.

Emma Fults supplied four kills and two service aces, Emma Coatsworth had four kills, and Anabel Kotzakov had three kills and two aces for the Sailors. Tegan Glenn and Deven Pence each had eight assists in splitting the setting duties.

Newport Harbor's Deven Pence (7) tips one over the net for point during a beach volleyball match against Huntington Beach.
Newport Harbor’s Deven Pence (7) tips one over the net for point
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“It’s … on the beach, which is a lot harder because you get stuck in the sand, and you can’t really jump as high,” Katzakov said. “It’s definitely different and a lot harder. I guess it’s more fun sometimes because the rallies do last longer, so we get to play for a lot more time.”

Down 21-16 in the third set, Huntington Beach jumped in front 22-21, compliments of a strong serving run by Isa Sligar. The teams went back and forth in an extended set until Kotzakov finished off a set from Glenn to end the match.

Newport Harbor improved to 2-0 in the league, having opened its season with a 25-22, 25-22, 25-13 win over Edison on Tuesday.

“I think it’s good that we’re finally getting out here after three to four years of work,” Allie Bjork, a senior middle blocker for Huntington Beach, said. “We’re at least getting something, so I’m pretty grateful to be out here any time I can get on the court.”

Her partner in the middle, Sydney Murrey, said the team had not practiced coming into the match, but she said she had similar feelings about playing once again.

“It’s just good to be back out here and playing the sport we all love most,” Murrey said.

The sand made for a softer landing while attempting to execute digs, a skill that liberos like Huntington Beach sophomore Tori Hagan familiarize themselves with.

“It’s way easier to cover court [playing six-on-six in sand volleyball],” Hagan said. “But it’s still pretty hard with the amount of people and communicating with that many people on the beach.”

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