Since entering the Orange Coast League in 2006, the Laguna Beach High girls’ volleyball team won league every year.
This year, the Breakers moved into the Sunset Conference, meaning that for the first time in 12 years, there will be a new girls’ volleyball champion in the Orange Coast League.
After the first week of league play, three teams were undefeated at 2-0, Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa and Saddleback.
The first two schools squared off on Tuesday, and the order of the league’s new configuration began to unfold.
Freshman setter Gabby Reinking had 38 assists and four service aces, and host Calvary Chapel swept Costa Mesa 25-21, 25-16, 25-18 to remain atop the league standings.
Freshman outside hitter Delaney Hill had a match-high 13 kills for the Eagles (13-6 overall). Junior middle blocker Makenzie Hill added 11 kills, two aces and two blocks.
“They’re really good, and they’re ready to hit,” Reinking said of the Hill sisters. “Any ball that I put up, it usually goes down because they’re just ready for the set.”
Delaney Hill had five kills in a six-point stretch in the first set, turning Costa Mesa’s 15-11 lead into a 17-15 deficit. The Eagles’ run ended at eight points, with Melia Cruz collecting back-to-back aces to extend Calvary Chapel’s advantage to 19-15.
“I think the passes were good, and it was just about getting a good set to her, and then she goes like, ‘Boom,’ ” Reinking said of the rhythm she found with Hill in Game 1.
It’s really tough when Malia gets to the back row. When our passes get a little bit off ... then we can’t run the middle.
Costa Mesa (10-9) had rallied to establish the early lead after libero Rae Galarion ran into a pole just six points into the match.
“Luckily, the trainer evaluated her,” Mustangs coach Todd Hanson said. “I wasn’t going to put her back in until the trainer said that there were no signs of a concussion.
“I think our girls really stepped up when she was out because they wanted to do it for Rae. It was almost like a reverse psychology thing. It was almost a little bit of a letdown when she came back in because everyone’s like, ‘Oh, she’s OK. We don’t have to push so hard to pick up for her.’ ”
The Mustangs squandered the first-set lead, and the Eagles’ height advantage forced Costa Mesa to sacrifice offense to improve its defense. Junior Malia Tufuga played out of the back row with the Mustangs in dire need of good passing.
“It’s really tough when Malia gets to the back row,” Hanson said. “When our passes get a little bit off, they’re not terrible, but when they get a little bit off, then we can’t run the middle.”
Costa Mesa put up a good block in the first half of Game 3. The Mustangs stayed with the Eagles because of it, as the presence of blockers resulted in easier balls for the back row to handle.
The Mustangs had 7½ blocks as a team in the third set, but Makenzie Hill and Jamie Killough each had four kills in the final set to help the Eagles complete the sweep.
Tufuga led Costa Mesa with 11 kills, 11 assists and 2½ blocks. Ashley Nguyen added seven kills and 14 assists. At middle blocker, Lorelei Hobbis provided two kills and 3½ blocks, while Tarah Harmon added three kills and two blocks.
“Our passing was really good tonight,” said Joshua Hill, the Eagles’ coach and a 1991 graduate of Costa Mesa High. “Some of the girls looked amazing. [Libero] Alyssa [Linnell] and some of the other girls really added into that passing to allow [our hitters] to do what they do.”