NEWPORT BEACH — The CIF Southern Section Division I-AA playoffs do not start until next week.
The postseason has started early at Newport Harbor High. Coach Dan Glenn said his girls' volleyball team is treating the final three regular-season matches as playoff ones.
The Sailors turned to experience in their first must-win situation Tuesday night. The veterans did not let their coach down against a winless team in the Sunset League.
On senior night at Newport Harbor, six of the seven seniors honored before the league match against Fountain Valley contributed to the Sailors' 25-6, 25-15, 25-13 sweep. Newport Harbor moved into a two-way tie for second place in league with Edison.
The Chargers lost a five-set match at home to Los Alamitos on Tuesday. The Griffins improved to 8-1 in league and clinched the league title outright after sharing it with Newport Harbor last season.
The Sailors and Chargers, who are both 6-3 in league, are battling for second. Each team has one league match left. The Sailors have a tougher one than the Chargers as they travel to Huntington Beach (5-4 in league) while Edison plays at Marina (2-7 in league).
The Oilers upset Newport Harbor in five on Oct. 20. If they pull off another stunner Thursday against the Sailors, ranked No. 4 in the Division I-AA coaches' poll, Newport Harbor most likely will be on the road in the first round of the playoffs, making it that much more difficult to make a run at defending their section crown.
The Sailors hit the road in their last two regular-season matches, starting at Huntington Beach Thursday, followed by a trip to Corona del Mar for the Battle of the Bay Friday. There is a lot at stake for Newport Harbor in both matches, second-place in league and bragging rights in the Back Bay.
Newport Harbor will not have the services of senior Renny Niebuhr in each match. Glenn said the middle blocker did not get to play Tuesday because she sprained an ankle last weekend at the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.
Injuries have hurt the Sailors this season. They have been without standout junior middle blocker Alex Holbrook (knee) and junior outside hitter Claire Castillo (knee).
Castillo has missed most the year, while Holbrook went down in the second league match at Los Alamitos on Oct. 7. Since Holbrook's season-ending injury, the Sailors have posted a 4-3 record in league.
Newport Harbor on Tuesday got above .500 in league without Holbrook, thanks to the play of the seniors. They delivered against the Barons, with outside hitters Maddy Brown and Sarah Buckingham leading the Sailors with eight kills each.
Matilda Lumpkin, usually a defensive specialist, recorded five kills and middle blocker Lauren Demos and Tabitha Goff finished with four kills apiece. Setter Emma Lidington recorded 17 assists and eight digs.
The Sailors' usual starters, which include junior setter Cinnamon Sary and junior libero Tatum Norton, applauded the effort turned in by the seniors.
"This was their night," said Glenn, who allowed the six healthy seniors to play most of the match.