Tars clinch league title

NEWPORT BEACH — Someone approached Coach Dan Glenn after the Newport Harbor High boys' volleyball team played at home Friday. The person joked with Glenn that he was hungry and he expected the Sunset League match to end in three sets.

"It didn't help," Glenn said that his Sailors were unable to sweep Edison and settled for a 25-27, 25-19, 25-21, 25-16 victory. "But we will take the [win]."

Glenn and the Sailors found themselves atop the league once again with the victory. They clinched the outright league title, improving to 8-0 in league.

The feat, Glenn said, felt weird considering Newport Harbor has two league matches left. He could not remember the last time the Sailors claimed first place with a week left in the regular season.

All that matters is that Newport Harbor wrapped up the top spot after placing second last season. The Sailors are trying to finish perfect in league for the third time in the past four seasons.

Cody Caldwell has been a part of the past two teams that went undefeated in league. The Loyola University Chicago-bound senior outside hitter led the way against Edison, recording 27 kills, 11 digs and two service aces.

After losing the opening set in which they built an early lead, Caldwell and his teammates woke up.

Senior outside hitter Rusty Sary contributed 18 kills and six digs, and 6-foot-9 sophomore middle blocker Kevin Rakestraw hammered 10 kills on a dozen attempts. Ian Sequeira set the big hitters up, finishing with 56 assists and seven digs.

"We were up … 8-3 and forgot who we're playing," Glenn said as the second-place Chargers challenged the Sailors at the start. "We played really well last week and we've kind of been on a roll, and we just stopped kind of playing with the urgency that we need to play with to beat a team like Edison or Huntington [Beach], all the teams that we have left."

The two league matches and one nonleague match on tap next week are important ones for the Sailors. They need to win out for any chance to move up in the CIF Southern Section Division I coaches' poll, where they are No. 4.

A No. 3 seed in the playoffs is possible for Newport Harbor, which is 20-7 overall. The Sailors are behind No. 3 Loyola of Los Angeles, No. 2 Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach and No. 1 Santa Margarita.

Newport Harbor beat Mira Costa in the semifinals at the recent Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions, getting revenge after the Mustangs swept the Sailors last month.

Mira Costa is at the Redondo Union-Mira Costa Tournament, where it will face stiff competition.

"Mira Costa's going to move down [in the poll] if [the Mustangs] lose, if they don't win this tournament," said Glenn, knowing his team must take care of business next week to crack the top three.

Fourth-place Fountain Valley comes to Newport Harbor on Tuesday. Two days later, the Sailors travel to Huntington Beach, which is in a second-place tie with Edison at 5-3 in league.

Do not let where the Barons stand in league fool you. They are the only team to go the distance against Newport Harbor in league play this season.

The Sailors pulled out a 25-19, 23-25, 20-25, 25-23, 17-15 victory at home against Fountain Valley earlier this month.

"Fountain Valley, we just have trouble with," said Glenn, whose team dropped a league match to the Barons last year. "It will be a good match for us. They got the big guy [in UCLA commit Trent Kersten]. They're fired up to play us. They play hard. Hopefully, we come out and are focused. It will be senior night [for us], so I think the seniors will be ready to go."

Glenn will try to rely on the veterans, Caldwell, Sary and Sequeira, to lift Newport Harbor in a huge nonleague match on Friday.

The Sailors are at Corona del Mar in the Battle of the Bay. The Sea Kings are ranked No. 1 in Division II.

"We got some seniors that don't want to lose to Corona," said Glenn, whose team has knocked off the Sea Kings twice this season in tournament play. "I definitely don't think we're going to be overconfident because we have a lot of respect for them.

"The thing that scares me about the Corona del Mar match is both times we played [the Sea Kings], we have played great, and I don't think they [did]."

Glenn expects a five-set match, so make sure to eat beforehand.

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