IRVINE – It seemed like an odd timeout when Laguna Beach High Coach Lance Stewart wanted to talk to his team early in the fourth set.
Stewart shouted at his Breakers, demanding them to play with some emotion. They eventually responded and scored an emotional 25-17, 18-25, 20-25, 25-22, 15-8 win over Francis Parker of San Diego to capture their third straight CIF Southern California Regional Division III title Saturday at Irvine Valley College.
The score was tied, 3-3, in the fourth set when Stewart called that timeout. They later trailed, 14-11, and Stewart had to call another timeout. It almost looked like Laguna was done, trailing 17-12. But the Breakers (23-11) went on a 7-1 run to get back in the game and went on to win, 25-22.
They used defense and the hot hand of Robbie McKnight to stay in control, as they led throughout the fifth set.
“I’m kind of an excitable guy,” Stewart said. “I’m a football guy, a football coach who likes to see some emotion. In football you can show that emotion physically. In volleyball you can’t show that physically. You make plays to show emotion. We weren’t making plays to show emotion. I told them we have to make plays and show some emotion. I think they did respond. We gave ourselves a chance to play some volleyball.”
McKnight, bound for USC, led Laguna Beach with 26 kills to go with five blocks.
The Breakers, who beat Francis Parker in 2009 for the regional title, opened the match with a dominating type performance. But the Lancers responded and appeared as if they were on their way to scoring the upset.
Senior Alek Burk also contributed to Laguna’s comeback with 10 kills. Senior libero Troy Donnefeld led the Breakers with 17 digs. Junior setter Jack Wynn amassed 45 assists, while senior Colin Cetnami led Laguna with seven blocks.
Cetnami and junior Austin Hilleman had eight kills each.
“It’s definitely a good way to go out,” McKnight said. “It wasn’t my best match but other guys stepped up … It’s a big accomplishment. We worked hard for it.”
Stewart said winning the first set so easily was, “the worst thing that could’ve happened to us,” while McKnight said, “we thought we had it in the bag.”
The Lancers took advantage of the Breakers’ complacency until Stewart challenged his players to play with more emotion.
The emotion the Breakers express now is joy.