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Huntington Beach girls’ volleyball earns at least a share of Surf League title

Huntington Beach's Lillian Perkins hits against Los Alamitos' Olivia Panzica, left, and Amanda Zidonis.
Huntington Beach’s Lillian Perkins hits against Los Alamitos’ Olivia Panzica, left, and Amanda Zidonis during a Surf League match on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

If a “closer” existed in volleyball, Huntington Beach High School’s Lillian Perkins would be it.

She played that role to near perfection in the Oilers’ 25-21, 25-16, 26-24 victory over Los Alamitos Wednesday on the road. The win clinched at least a share of the Surf League title for the Oilers.

Perkins led Huntington Beach (23-5, 4-0) with 13 kills and contributed a block to propel the Oilers to their 16th consecutive win. Meghan Freck contributed 18 assists, while Danielle Sparks notched three service aces. Kylie Leopard and Taylor Ponchak each added two blocks on defense.

Although Huntington Beach head coach Craig Pazanti was happy to win, he knows the job isn’t finished.

Huntington Beach's Taylor Ponchak hits against Los Alamitos' Olivia Panzica during a Surf League match on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“I’m less concerned about streaks,” he said. “The league title is big, but 4-0 isn’t 6-0. We’re just going to keep on playing and try to finish this thing out right. We haven’t won a league title in a few years since the releaguing stuff.”

Kaia Herweg and Olivia Panzica led Los Alamitos’ offense with 10 kills each.

Sydney May contributed 17 assists, while Reagan Schippert dropped in two service aces. Amanda Zidonis led on defense with two blocks and one block assist.

Los Alamitos (15-16, 2-2) jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead thanks to two kills by Panzica, but after that, Huntington Beach dominated. The Oilers scored eight out of the following nine points. Ponchak had two kills, and Sydney Murrey and Sparks provided service aces during that stretch.

The Huntington Beach girls' volleyball team celebrates after sweeping Los Alamitos during a Surf League match on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Murrey returned to action after recovering from an ankle injury sustained in warmups before the Oilers’ victory over Newport Harbor last week.

“It’s good to be back, but I was definitely hurting a little bit,” Murrey said. “It’s so nice to have my teammates pick me up. This is my first year of high school that our team has played truly as a team. It feels so good to be all together.”

Los Alamitos was able to keep the set close. Three diving defensive plays by Ava Kelly kept the score within three points at 24-21, before Huntington Beach won Game 1 on a Los Alamitos service error.

Huntington Beach cruised in Game 2. Perkins had six kills in the set.

The Huntington Beach girls' volleyball team celebrates after scoring a point against Los Alamitos.
The Huntington Beach girls’ volleyball team celebrates after scoring a point against Los Alamitos during a Surf League match on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The third set was by far the toughest for the Oilers. Los Alamitos clawed back from an early deficit to tie the game at five-all and then take a 6-5 lead.

It was the Griffins’ first lead since early in the first set. After four lead changes, Los Alamitos pulled ahead 21-18 with two kills by Herweg and an energetic performance on defense.

“She does play with a lot of energy,” Los Alamitos head coach Dave Huber said. “Sometimes that’s contagious and gets other people going. It’s definitely something we need.”

But Perkins took over once again for Huntington Beach, notching a kill on three of four points to tie the score at 24.

Los Alamitos' Chase Koepke hits against Huntington Beach's Taylor Ponchak during a Surf League match on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Perkins focuses on one goal late in matches.

“We have to win,” Perkins said. “I’m just figuring out how I can get this ball on the floor no matter what it takes, and I know everyone around me is working to do that, too.”

A Ponchak kill would force Los Alamitos to match point. Then a service error sealed the match for the Oilers.

Huber knew his team faced a talented group in Huntington Beach.

“There is just not a bad volleyball player on the other side of the net,” Huber said. “It’s about being disciplined and taking advantage of your opportunities when we get them, and we didn’t quite do that.”

Huntington Beach fans celebrate during a Surf League match against Los Alamitos on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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