NEWPORT BEACH — After she has amassed 52 kills in the first three matches of the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA playoffs, one thing is clear.
The Newport Harbor High girls' volleyball team uses more than just a sprinkle of Cinnamon Sary.
But look beyond that and Coach Dan Glenn sees everyone contributing. So, while the USC-bound senior outside hitter again led the Sailors with 16 kills in Saturday night's 25-14, 25-18, 25-20 quarterfinal sweep of visiting Orange Lutheran, it was the Sailors' balance that made them so hard to shut down.
Seniors Claire Castillo and Kasey Thompson each had six kills. Senior Allison Schelin had five, and sophomore Carolyn Bockrath had three. They enabled junior setter Torey Thompson to rack up 35 assists, a high number in a sweep.
Torey Thompson has been remarkably consistent, tallying 36, 35, and 35 assists in the first three rounds. So have the Sailors, who have not lost a set in the playoffs.
Newport Harbor will need another strong effort Tuesday night back at home, where they'll face Mater Dei in a Division I-AA semifinal. Mater Dei upset top-seeded Edison in four sets in another quarterfinal Saturday.
Upsets can happen in the playoffs. The Sailors (24-8) made sure they weren't the second straight victim of Orange Lutheran (18-14), which had upset No. 4-seeded Mira Costa in five Thursday.
"She's been fantastic the whole season," Glenn said of Sary, who also had three digs and three blocks. "She's really picked it up, and everybody else feeds off of her. The level of play is so good now, the farther you get along, that if you just have one person you're not going to do it. The kids all did a great job, but they feed off of her, and she played phenomenal tonight.
"We passed really well. [Senior libero] Tatum [Norton] passed well, all the kids passed well, which is a key," Glenn said. "They can't focus on one person that way. It keeps everybody honest. Our middles [Thompson and Bockrath] did a really nice job, especially early tonight. We were able to get them the ball and kind of spread things out a little bit."
Norton had nine digs, and Schelin added five.
The Sailors started strong, jumping out to a 6-2 advantage in the first set after a block from Castillo and Kasey Thompson. They also finished that first set strong, as Sary recorded three straight kills to end it.
Sary and Kasey Thompson have championship experience. They played on the 2009 varsity team that won CIF Southern Section Division I-AA and CIF State Division I titles. And they are hopeful the Sailors, who finished third in the Sunset League this year, are peaking at the right time.
"We know what it takes to win, and I think we're kind of trying to philosophize that to the younger players on our team," Sary said. "[We're trying to] get everyone on the same page. During this year, we lost a lot of matches. We kind of got used to losing, and I think now we're starting to win and we're starting to know what it feels like.
"Torey's able to put it anywhere, and anywhere we set, someone can put it away. We have so many hitters. We have so many diggers. I think we're just finally putting it all together."
Newport Harbor was not going to lose in the quarterfinals for the second straight year. The Tars still were pushed in the middle of the second and third sets. In the second set the Lancers tied the score, 10-10, before Torey Thompson served four straight points, including an ace, to create some breathing room.
In the third set, the Lancers pulled within 10-9, before the Sailors went on an 8-1 spurt that included four more kills from Sary.
Orange Lutheran senior captain Macy Capen, a TCU signee, had a team-high 10 kills and the Lancers' only two service aces.
"We were all on it tonight," Torey Thompson said. "We all did our job. We passed well, and I think we executed everything we practiced well."
The Tars have split two matches with Mater Dei this year, losing in the third-place match of the preseason Ann Kang Invitational and winning in a Dave Mohs Invitational quarterfinal.