Laguna Beach High girls volleyball coach Shawn Patchell took a simple approach to remedy his team’s early service struggles against Murrieta Mesa on Thursday.
“We talk about serving to seams and into certain areas all year,” Patchell said. “I changed that to serving into ‘Area C’ and [the C] was for court, [to] serve it in the court.”
The Breakers dropped the opening set at home to the Rams on Thursday, but No. 2-seeded Laguna Beach cleaned up its serves and attacks to take the next three sets and win 22-25, 25-23, 25-11, 25-21 in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs.
It was the second straight season that Laguna Beach dispatched Murrieta Mesa in the first round. The Breakers (15-12) advanced to play at Redlands East Valley (20-6) in the second round on Saturday.
Laguna Beach juniors Piper Naess and Cambria Hall each finished with 18 kills, while junior Soren Patchell had 14 assists.
The Breakers looked tight early. They committed two of their 16 service errors in the first 12 points of the match, helping the Rams jump out to a 12-10 advantage.
Laguna Beach rallied behind two kills from Naess and one apiece from Hall and Gretchen Webb to take an 18-14 lead.
Murrieta Mesa (13-11) went on a run of its own. Behind three straight kills by senior outside hitter Kali Uhl, the Rams tied the score at 21-21. The Rams polished off their only set win of the match with another kill from Uhl, who finished with 15 kills.
“We played a little nervous,” Shawn Patchell said. “But we worked through it and I’m proud of them. The girls kept working and kept grinding.”
The second set was most definitely a grind-it-out type of effort for Laguna Beach.
The Breakers used a quick 5-1 spurt to open up a 12-7 advantage, but Laguna Beach’s eighth and ninth service errors of the match allowed Murrieta Mesa to gain momentum. The Rams cut the deficit to 13-12.
The Breakers began to pull away late as back-to-back kills from Naess extended the lead to 23-18. Laguna Beach held on for a 25-23 victory in Game 2.
Laguna Beach began to take full control of the match in the third set. Sophomore Jackie Strawn went on a momentum-capturing six-point service run that included three service aces, helping the Breakers go ahead 14-5.
The Breakers cruised to a 14-point win in the third set, and Strawn knew it was a result of her service run.
“The biggest impact I can make for this team is to get as many serves as possible,” Strawn said. “I just tried to put a lot of float on my serves and get them really deep in their chests. When we’re able to go on big runs like that, we’re unstoppable.”
Murrieta Mesa didn’t go down without a fight, taking a 12-9 lead in Game 4.
But Laguna Beach used a 9-2 run, capped by a block and a kill from Hall and an ace from Hallie Carballo to jump ahead 18-14.
Murrieta Mesa got back to within 22-21 on an ace from Charlyn Miller, but a crosscourt, deep corner kill from Ella Tyus was the side-out the Breakers needed.
Strawn served another ace and Naess slammed a kill to help Laguna Beach reach the second round.
DEVIN UGLAND is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @Devin_Ugland