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Laguna Beach rallies past Cypress for five-set win in semifinals

The Laguna Beach High girls’ volleyball team went 1-5 in five-set matches during the regular season.

In spite of their record in such contests, the Breakers believe that being in that many five-setters taught them how to handle tough matches.

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It would be hard to argue, after the Breakers appeared to come back from the dead on Saturday night at Cypress High.

Junior outside hitter Cambria Hall had a match-high 22 kills, and second-seeded Laguna Beach rallied past the host Centurions 21-25, 20-25, 25-18, 25-19, 15-12 in a CIF Southern Section Division 3 semifinal.

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“It taught us that you can never give up,” Hall said of the Breakers’ experience in five-set matches. “You always have to have your foot on the gas pedal, and there is never a moment to say, ‘OK, let’s just lollygag through.’”

Laguna Beach (18-12) will square off with Sun Valley Village Christian (33-9) in the Division 3 championship match next Saturday. The top-seeded Crusaders won 28-26, 22-25, 25-20, 26-24 at Culver City in the other semifinal.

The Breakers held on for the victory after building a 13-6 lead in Game 5. Cypress narrowed its deficit to 13-12, but Natalie Repetti sent a short-angle attack just wide to the right on a point that would have tied up the final set. Laguna Beach closed it out on the next point.

Breakers coach Shawn Patchell addressed his team immediately after the match, praising his girls for their ability to dig deep after they went down two sets on the road.

“I love the grind,” he told them. “Everyone got back there and served and defended. That’s our calling card.”

He also commended the bench for its energy during the contest. Kendall Fraser, a 6-foot-2 middle blocker who came off the bench to provide 3½ blocks in Games 3 and 4, echoed those sentiments.

“Everyone started firing up,” Fraser said. “I don’t think [the comeback] was because of the switches in the lineup, but because the bench got so fired up. The energy just went so high, and everyone was just happy and celebrating everything.”

Soren Patchell had 46 assists, three service aces and 2½ blocks. Piper Naess added 19 kills, 19 digs and four aces, and Hallie Carballo also contributed 25 digs defensively.

Cypress (22-5) dropped a CIF semifinal match at home for the second year in a row, but the Centurions were the more aggressive team by far until the Breakers began to put up a block in Game 3.

Gwen Russell finished with a team-high 19 kills and 2½ blocks for the Centurions. Molly Grace had 14 kills, Repetti had 12 kills and three blocks, and Danica Glover handed out 45 assists to go with two aces.

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