The Laguna Beach High girls’ volleyball team has just one senior on its roster, but that should not fool anyone into thinking that the Breakers do not have experience.
A group of four juniors — Cambria Hall, Piper Naess, Hallie Carballo and Soren Patchell — have played on the varsity team since their freshman year. After winning their opening match of the CIF Southern Section playoffs the last two years, the quartet is in the midst of its deepest playoff run to date.
The co-Wave League champion Breakers (17-12) traveled to Cypress for a Division 3 semifinal match on Saturday night. Hall, a 5-foot-8 outside hitter with a live arm, helped them get there.
“We’re not new to each other,” Hall said. “I think our season has definitely played out very nicely. We definitely have connected throughout the season and learned each other’s quirks and stuff and kind of become a unit.”
In the three matches for the second-seeded Breakers, Hall has produced 40 kills, 52 digs and four block assists. The numbers speak to an all-around game, assisted by her involvement in several sports growing up.
Hall credits water polo for gaining the arm strength to take the booming swings that she does. She also plays beach volleyball, which has provided court vision and an emphasis on getting her feet behind the ball when she attacks.
“She really takes good, athletic, dynamic approaches, and as a result, she gets a lot of pop on the ball,” Breakers coach Shawn Patchell said. “She’s worked hard on her mechanics, getting her elbow back. She’s really developed her arm swing. It just didn’t come naturally, so that’s a lot of credit to her work ethic.”
Hall has worked hard on her craft, and she says her coach knows just what to say to make the team perform at a championship level.
“In practice, what definitely motivates us is he will point to our pictures on the wall,” Hall said. “Sometimes, when we’re not playing as good, or when we need to pick it up, he’ll say, ‘That’s a CIF-winning team, and you just have to believe it.’”
In addition, Hall grew up playing soccer. The experience of the juniors is substantial for high school indoor volleyball, but their relationship goes back further than that.
Carballo, a libero, and Naess, an outside hitter, both played soccer with Hall for the Pacific Soccer Club. Hall and Naess played varsity soccer their freshman year before turning their full attention to volleyball.
Naess has spent a lot of time around Hall in athletics, and yet, Hall can still surprise her sometimes. When Hall sprained an ankle at Foothill on Sept. 5, she tried to stay in the game before Patchell pulled her from the contest.
“I didn’t expect her to play because I thought it was a very bad injury,” Naess said. “I knew that she wanted to play, so she told the coach that she was OK. She persevered and did it for the team. I’m super proud of her for that.”
Two matches later, Hall had a team-high 16 kills as she helped the Breakers end a string of four consecutive losses in five-set matches when Laguna Beach notched a road victory at Corona del Mar.
Hall, a 4.0 student, also enjoys helping others outside of volleyball. She is part of “Walking for Water” on campus, an organization which helps raise awareness and funds for clean water projects in Africa.
She also donates her time to helping kids with special needs.
“She’s the first one to smile,” Shawn Patchell said. “She’s the first one to give a jumping high 10. A high five isn’t good enough for Cambria, so she’s been our spark plug.”
Born: Dec. 16, 2001
Hometown: Laguna Beach
Height: 5 feet 8
Weight: 140 pounds
Coach: Shawn Patchell
Favorite food: Avocado
Favorite movie: “Crazy Rich Asians”
Favorite athletic moment: Beating Corona del Mar the last two years has meant a lot to Hall and the Breakers. The Sea Kings have made deep playoff runs both years, and Hall loves the energy in the gym when the traditional volleyball powerhouses do battle.