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Laguna Beach swept by Village Christian in Division 3 final

When the Laguna Beach High girls’ volleyball team took the court on Saturday afternoon, it had a chance to get even.

The Breakers had suffered an earlier defeat to Sun Valley Village Christian, when the visiting Crusaders won in four sets in a nonleague match on Sept. 21.

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Beyond that, Laguna Beach was playing in its 12th CIF Southern Section championship match as a program. The Breakers had won five of those, including the previous two in 2006 and 2007.

Unfortunately for the Breakers, the Crusaders proved to be an unstoppable force that prevented Laguna Beach from completing both of those objectives.

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Freshman outside hitter Emma Napoleon had a match-high 13 kills, and the top-seeded Crusaders beat the Breakers 25-19, 25-19, 25-11 in the Division 3 title match at Cerritos College.

Senior middle blocker Mackenzie Jensen was the most efficient of Village Christian’s high-volume hitters, providing eight kills on .348 hitting.

Freshman outside hitter Payton Hudspeth added seven kills, junior setter Kendall Jensen handed out 32 assists, and sophomore defensive specialist Brooke Hudspeth had six service aces and seven digs.

Freshman libero Campbell Jensen had a match-high 19 digs, and junior defensive specialist Sara Denham added 12 digs for the Crusaders (34-9).

“It was crazy,” Kendall Jensen said of winning a section championship. “I wouldn’t trade this moment for anything else. Just to go out there and fight with my family, it was incredible. The feeling was amazing.”

The second-seeded Breakers (18-13) had a brief window of opportunity. In the first set, the Breakers took a 9-4 lead. Crusaders coach Brent Asuka called a timeout, and he reminded his team to focus on each individual point.

“If you worry about one point at a time, how to get the next point, and not worry about the grand scheme of the score, then we can inch our way back into the game, and that’s what we did,” Asuka said.

Laguna Beach had a young team with only one senior in outside hitter Gretchen Webb. Breakers coach Shawn Patchell had fond memories of a team that provided “gutsy” performances on the way to the championship match, including a comeback from two sets down at Cypress in the semifinals.

Throughout the season, Patchell had expressed a desire to face top-tier competition, feeding into the narrative that you have to beat the best to be the best. He would like another shot at the Crusaders in the CIF State Southern California regional tournament.

“We want to get back here,” Patchell said. “It was our first time being here for this group. Chalk it up to experience. We would kind of like to play [Village Christian] in state.”

Brackets for the regional tournament will be released on Sunday, with first-round action scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

In Saturday’s section final, junior outside hitters Cambria Hall and Piper Naess paced the Breakers with nine kills apiece. Webb had five kills on .300 hitting, junior setter Soren Patchell distributed 23 assists, and junior libero Hallie Carballo had 16 digs and two aces.

“It was so much fun,” Webb said of making it to the CIF finals as a senior. “The whole team rallied the entire time, and we pushed through whenever we were down. It was just so incredible to be able to do this my senior year.

“Seeing the rest of the team come behind me and work together was just so incredible.”

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