In his first two seasons as the Ocean View High girls’ volleyball coach, Joshua Nehls has built up the CIF Southern Section playoffs to be the point that the Seahawks want to be playing their best volleyball.
The Seahawks went one round further than they did in 2017. They reached the semifinals of the Division 7 bracket, losing to top-seeded Temecula Linfield Christian.
This time, Ocean View’s season did not end with the section playoffs. Even with another elimination match on the way, Nehls thought he was observing a more relaxed team.
The pressure had come off. The stated goal of the season had passed. This was “bonus volleyball” for the Seahawks.
With that being said, nerves did find the Seahawks, and No. 5-seeded Ocean View was unable to defend home court against Los Angeles City Section Open Division foe Chatsworth. The No. 12 Chancellors won a five-set thriller 25-22, 18-25, 28-26, 23-25, 15-13 on Tuesday night in the first round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division IV playoffs.
For the first time this season, Ocean View (23-5) went to a fifth set. Sophomore middle blocker Wendie Smith took charge. She had three kills and two blocks in the final set, as the Seahawks erased a 5-2 deficit.
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, the Chancellors (29-15) came roaring back. Chatsworth claimed the last six points of the match, riding a run on the serve of Jessica Anzurez.
Senior outside hitter Chelsea Olmedo had a match-high 20 kills for the Chancellors, four of them coming in Game 5.
“The section playoffs were not a good start for her,” Chancellors coach Sina Aghassy said of Olmedo. “She was actually benched after that. I didn’t like her effort.
“She knows me. I’m very hard-nosed, and if she is not giving me the effort I know she is capable of, she doesn’t get the opportunity. Today, she made the most of her opportunity.”
Delaney Vega contributed 39 assists, and Grace Molina added 13 kills for Chatsworth.
Katelyn Taylor had a team-high 12 kills and seven service aces for the Seahawks. Helen Reynolds added 10 kills, three blocks and three aces, Jillian Pratt had eight kills and four aces, and Alyson Nguyen finished with 31 assists.
Cambria Adams and Kelli Greiner also had three aces each.
“This was a great way to go out,” Reynolds said in spite of the defeat. “Our goal was to get past how we did last year, and we did that.
“Josh [Nehls] kept saying, ‘These are just extra games, and we’re just beating our goals over and over again. If we win, that’s awesome, but if we lose, we already beat our goal. We’re just going even farther.’ ”
Ocean View cleaned up its serving in the second set, and that allowed the Seahawks to jump out to a 16-6 lead in Game 2. Taylor rattled off four aces in a row.
Reynolds also had four kills in the set, including the one that evened the match at a set apiece.
In the third set, the Seahawks fell back into bad habits. Ocean View committed seven service errors, putting itself in a hole.
Despite that, the Seahawks made some big plays to get back in the set. Smith had a solo block on Olmedo to give Ocean View a 23-22 lead.
Ocean View fought off three set points, but it never got one of its own. On Chatsworth’s fourth opportunity to close Game 3, Ocean View was ruled in the net.
After the Seahawks fell behind, Greiner, the Seahawks’ senior libero, said that the team had to dance its nerves away.
“We go crazy,” she said. “We dance in a circle. That’s what we were trying to do because we just needed a good attitude on the court.”
Ocean View extended the match to a decisive fifth set when Pratt found open space on a sharp-angle kill from the left side.
“It’s super satisfying when you try something new and it totally just works,” Pratt said.
As a semifinalist in Division 7 of the section playoffs, the Seahawks did not necessarily believe they would get a home match in state, but they were happy that they did.
“For us seniors, it was so special,” Adams said. “My best friend was in the stands tonight, and he was out there cheering me on.