NEWPORT BEACH — One Sunset League champion stayed in the hunt to repeat while the other did not Tuesday night.
Coach Dan Glenn said his Newport Harbor High girls' volleyball team is now playing for second place in league.
The Sailors split the crown with Los Alamitos last season. Now, they are just splitting hairs.
The Sailors dropped their second straight home league match, all but ending their title hopes. The Griffins won, 25-20, 22-25, 25-20, 25-18, and remained tied for first place in league with Edison.
Glenn, in his 25th year at Newport Harbor, looked and sounded disappointed with the outcome. As the Griffins (23-5, 6-1 in league), ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA celebrated on the Sailors' gym, Glenn did not allow his players to leave the court until the visitors wrapped up their post-match party.
"Right here!" Glenn said to his players before leading them into a dark room, where turning the lights on proved to be an issue.
The Sailors (15-9, 4-3) failed to flip the switch on the court when it mattered most. Needing to force a decisive fifth set, Newport Harbor took a 16-14 lead in the fourth set after Maddy Brown recorded one of her team-high 11 kills.
Newport Harbor never scored again until the Griffins reeled off 10 straight points to put them at match point. Los Alamitos was on its way to getting revenge on the Sailors, who upset the Griffins on the road in their first league meeting on Oct. 7. Newport Harbor lost junior standout Alex Holbrook to a season-ending knee injury in that match.
Los Alamitos closed out the match in Game 4 this time around with the help of Alijah Gunsaulus (14 kills) and Jordyn Schnabl (12 kills). The Griffins beat the Sailors for the third time in the last four meetings, two of those victories coming at the Durango Classic in Las Vegas and the Dave Mohs Tournament in Huntington Beach.
"It's disappointing [to lose] in this gym," said Glenn, adding that his team fell apart.
"They got hot at the right time."
The Griffins picked up their fifth league win in a row. They travel to Marina Thursday before a possible first-place showdown at fifth-ranked Edison (6-1 in league) on Nov. 2.
Newport Harbor entertains Edison on Thursday. The Chargers were the first team to hand the Sailors their first league loss on Oct. 12. Since then, Newport Harbor is 2-2 in league play and it has dropped out of the Division I-AA top-10 poll.
The Sailors have three league matches left to improve on their current third-place spot in the league standings. They are one match ahead of No. 10 Huntington Beach, which went to Newport Harbor last week and upended the Sailors in five sets.
Newport Harbor cannot afford to drop three consecutive league matches at home.
"We can get second if we beat Edison [and] if we win out," Glenn said. "We're still kind of at the growing stage of our season. We still got to get better. Hopefully, we can.
"We can't dwell on this [loss to Los Alamitos]. We got a great team coming in here on Thursday. We got to focus on Edison and see if we can bounce back and give [the Chargers] a tough match. We have a lot of volleyball ahead of us still."
After facing Edison, the Sailors travel north for the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions. The prestigious two-day event starts Friday.
While Newport Harbor competes out of town, the Griffins will rest. They have their eyes locked on one objective before the playoffs.
"We're just focused on taking care of the next matches in league," said Coach Dave Huber, who not only has his Griffins closer to defending the league title, but winning it outright this season.