LAGUNA BEACH — The Laguna Beach High girls' volleyball team had Marymount on the ropes during Tuesday night's tight, CIF Southern Section Division 1-A semifinal match, but No. 1 found a way to move on.
The top-seeded Sailors overcame a 2-1 deficit in games at Laguna's Dugger Gym to pull out a 22-25, 25-21, 23-25, 25-16, 15-10 victory.
The win sends Marymount (22-6) on to the Division 1-A title game Saturday at Cypress College. The Sailors will face second-ranked Redlands East Valley which defeated Corona del Mar in Tuesday's other semifinal.
A spirited performance by the Breakers gave them the upper hand after three games but Marymount turned it on in the fourth game and took a 5-0 lead to start the decisive fifth set to emerge with a hard-fought win.
Laguna, which had a few hitting errors early, could get no closer than three points (6-3 and 12-9) in the fifth set.
"They made more plays than we did, and that's the difference," said Laguna Coach Lance Stewart whose squad, the fourth seed, ended the year 21-9. "I watched them on tape six different times and they had three players out there tonight, who I didn't see on tape. They're the same players but they played a lot better tonight than what I saw of them on tape. Their outside hitters got hot."
It was Laguna that started out hot.
The Breakers came back from an 8-6 deficit in the first game to take an 11-9 lead on a kill by senior opposite Mackenzie Hester. From that point, the Breakers never trailed although the teams were tied one final time at 12-12 A service error by the Sailors, one of five in the opening game, gave Laguna the lead for good.
A 7-1 run, highlighted by a kill by Chanel Stewart and consecutive service aces by junior outside hitter Marina Paul, took the lead from 14-13, to 21-14. A kill by Stewart gave Laguna its biggest lead of the night (23-15) but the Breakers had to withstand a 5-0 run by Marymount that made it 23-20 on an ace by junior outside hitter Lanti Moye-McLaren.
The Breakers took the first set, 25-23, when Sailors sophomore outside hitter Kathleen Harris mishandled a shot at the net.
Laguna led in the second set, 16-13, but relinquished the lead when Moye-McLaren's tap gave Marymount an 18-17 lead. The score was tied at 18-18, but the Sailors grabbed the lead at 19-18 on a kill by junior outside hitter Manon Fuller. A soft tap by Harris at game point gave the Sailors a 25-21 victory.
In the third set, Laguna went on a 6-0 run early and appeared to have broken away from a 5-5 tie. But the Sailors caught the Breakers at 13-13 on a kill by Moye-McLaren. A kill by Caroline Holte eventually gave Laguna the lead for good (17-16) and another kill by the junior middle blocker junior capped a 25-23 victory.
Marymount used a 4-0 run to take control of the fourth game and went on to earn a 25-16 win that evened the match at two games apiece. The Sailors then bolted to a 5-0 lead in the fifth game and Laguna was faced with an uphill battle the remainder of the way.
A shot by Harris ricocheted off Hester and sophomore middle blocker Julia Goggin on the Laguna side of the net and fell to the floor for match point.
"We didn't execute the simple plays and we didn't play long into the games we lost," Lance Stewart said. "I thought we served really well and for the most part, passed well. We got behind in that fifth game and couldn't catch up.
"We had them on the brink."
Chanel Stewart led Laguna with 19 kills and had 11 digs with one service ace. Hester had 10 kills, six digs and four aces, Paul had nine kills, a team-high 14 digs and two aces and Holte had nine kills, four digs and three aces.
Junior setter Allison Palmer had 42 assists.
Chanel Stewart, Hester and senior middle blocker Lauren Capobianco, who finished with 12 digs and a pair of aces, played the final match of their Laguna careers.
"They're a big reason we made it to the semis," Lance Stewart said of the senior trio. "They all improved throughout the year and they are class girls. I'm going to miss them. Really miss them."
Laguna was making its seventh-straight semifinals appearance and 25th overall, and was seeking to reach the final for the first time since 2007 when it won a second-straight Southern Section championship.