The Ocean View High girls’ volleyball team is one win away from making its first CIF Southern Section finals appearance in 20 years.
The No. 4-seeded Seahawks advanced to the Division 7 semifinals with a 26-24, 25-17, 20-25, 25-22 win over San Pedro Rolling Hills Prep on Wednesday night at Rolling Hills Estates Palos Verdes Peninsula High.
The quarterfinal bout pitted the superior height of Ocean View middle blockers Helen Reynolds and Wendie Smith against high-flying Huskies Maia Taylor and Kai Nickerson. The Seahawks won the matchup, giving them 17 straight wins.
Ocean View (23-3) will go on the road to face No. 1 Temecula Linfield Christian (20-3) in the semifinals on Saturday. The Lions beat Carpinteria Cate in five sets in the quarterfinals.
This is where we lost last year. Tonight was probably more nerve-wracking, since our goal was to surpass last season.
Reynolds’ powerful serves kept pushing the Huskies (17-3) back toward their backline. With room, Smith converted several kills early to lead 12-10 in the first set.
“It’s been really hard to choose an MVP for our team,” Seahawks coach Joshua Nehls said, “but you have to go with Helen. Every opponent has to deal with her in the middle, as well as Wendie.”
The pair of 6-footers started trading points up to a 15-10 advantage.
First, Smith formed a wall at the net for a block. Reynolds then served a heater that Rolling Hills failed to handle, and Smith elevated for a block on the next rally.
Smith, a sophomore, finished with 11 kills to go with three blocks. Reynolds, a senior, had six kills, four service aces and two blocks.
“I actually thought I was too negative early in the first set. That didn’t do anyone any good,” Reynolds said. “Once we started getting back to loving each other, I was able to move forward with my team to establish ourselves again.”
Digs from Taylor and Nickerson seized the lead back 22-21. Nehls inserted both his tall middles, and the Seahawks survived to take the set.
“I would rather rotate them to keep one of our 6-foot middles fresh,” Nehls said. “We needed a boost at that time.”
Rolling Hills made too many unforced errors to drop the second set. Between Taylor, Naya Stroud and Julia Ramirez, the Huskies lost possession on six missed serves.
They cut the deficit to 15-14, only for Seahawks setter Alyson Nguyen to dive one-handed for a dig. She sent a blooper over that landed for a pivotal point.
“I know it seems like an incredible play,” Nehls said, “but we practice those situations all the time. Aly does especially.”
Nguyen facilitated the offense with 23 assists.
Katelyn Taylor ripped a final kill to seize the set and a 2-0 margin for Ocean View. Reynolds drew several defenders to the middle, but popped a set to Taylor for the conversion.
“You can feel the juju in the air sometimes,” Reynolds said. “Our team can be hyper-connected sometimes, and get into an unstoppable rhythm.”
With their backs against the wall, the Huskies used increasingly powerful kills from Nickerson to extend the match to another set.
Ocean View outlasted Rolling Hills in the final set with superior focus. The Huskies committed several net and carry violations to finds themselves trailing 17-12.
A final net violation by Maia Taylor clinched the quarterfinal triumph for Ocean View, which led to a raucous applause from the visiting fans.
“This is where we lost last year,” Nehls said, referring to a four-set loss in the quarterfinals to Malibu last year. “Tonight was probably more nerve-wracking, since our goal was to surpass last season.”
SAM DODGE is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @samgododge