Last week, the Laguna Beach High girls’ volleyball team experienced its first league loss since the 2005 season.
On Thursday, the Breakers had more than their home court to defend.
Laguna Beach hosted Newport Harbor, hoping to prevent the Sailors from clinching the outright Wave League title. A string of 13 consecutive league titles won by the Breakers hung in the balance.
Piper Naess had a match-high 17 kills, and the Breakers got a much-desired 25-17, 25-19, 25-18 victory on senior night.
Newport Harbor (9-19, 4-1 in league) had beaten Laguna Beach (9-9, 4-1) in four sets on Sept. 26. The Breakers needed to win to forge a tie atop the league standings.
Breakers coach Shawn Patchell added that the league bylaws reward the league’s No. 1 seed to the team that loses the least amount of sets, as the first head-to-head tiebreaker.
Patchell said that he was reluctant to put the pressure on his team to come through with the sweep, but he decided that the group was experienced enough to perform with that prior knowledge. He let his team know the situation on Wednesday.
“The girls knew that we needed to win in three, so to be able to play clean like that, that’s a lot of pressure,” Patchell said. “It’s hard to play real steady volleyball when you’re kind of in a must-win situation.
“We wanted to make sure we got them in three [sets] because they got us in four. That’s one that if it goes down to a tiebreak, it goes down to sets and points and everything.”
Cambria Hall had 15 kills, Gretchen Webb added nine kills, and Soren Patchell finished with 34 assists for the Breakers.
A ceremony honored Webb as the team’s lone senior prior to the match. She was serenaded with speeches by teammates, and the opposite came out swinging with four kills in the opening set.
“My teammates are all really supportive, so it helps fire me up and get me going,” Webb said. “They encourage me so much, and it makes it easy to play well when they’re supporting you. If you make an error, it’s OK because they have your back.”
Newport Harbor jumped to a 12-8 lead following a kill by Siena Springborn in Game 3, but the Breakers used incredible efficiency to storm back and complete the sweep.
Laguna Beach had 17 kills and no errors as a team in the third set, with all of the kills coming from the trio of Naess, Hall and Webb.
“I thought we played super clean,” Naess said. “We all are dedicated, and we wanted to win so badly. We were in it to win it. We never gave up.
“We knew that our tough loss against Newport the other day affected us, and we were wanting to win so bad. We just played super clean throughout the whole match.”
Allison Crandell had a team-high 11 kills for the Sailors, who had their five-match winning streak snapped. Jasmine Amirie had 23 assists, Springborn added six kills and three blocks, and Maggie Herrington chipped in with four kills and a block.
“It’s that thing where you’ve got to go out and earn it,” Sailors coach Dan Glenn said of playing with the league title on the line. “We played pretty well against them last time, and they didn’t play as well. It’s one of those things where we’re still learning how to play on the road, too.”
Asked what he saw out of his team during its recent stretch of success, Glenn said, “We’re getting better. We’re playing with some emotion and kind of understanding what it takes to win, which is a hard thing, especially when you’re not winning that much.
“You’re getting them to buy in to what you’re teaching and everything else,” he added. “We just got to continue to get better and bounce back from this and have a good game on Tuesday.”
Newport Harbor needs to win at home against Fountain Valley on Tuesday to clinch at least a share of its first league title since 2009.
Laguna Beach would also clinch at least a share of the Wave League crown with a win over Marina on Tuesday in the league finale.