Girls' Volleyball Dream Team: Sary hangs tough for Sailors

Cinnamon Sary found it hard to stand on her own two feet at the end of her final volleyball match on the Newport Harbor High court.

The senior needed a hand to get up, yet no one was around at first to help her.

The problem was practically everyone else in the gym rushed the court to celebrate an upset win of Mater Dei. The Sailors had just qualified for the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA girls' title match and the reason why laid smack right on the floor.

Sary was in pain, unable to move.

The feeling was the best Sary said she has ever experienced.

Sary led the Sailors to the unthinkable, a section finale, with a 22-kill and six-dig effort. The odds were stacked against them with a standout player quitting the team a couple of weeks before the playoffs.

At first, Sary didn't believe in any postseason run, until Coach Dan Glenn made her and the rest of the Sailors buy into the possibility. Sary matured into a leader down the stretch, someone Glenn counted on.

Every time out, Sary impressed Glenn, who's been in the coaching business at Newport Harbor for 26 years and has seen it all.

"What can you say about Cinnamon?" Glenn said with a huge smile after the Sailors defeated Mater Dei, 25-22, 18-25, 25-16, 25-23, in the semifinals. "She's fun to watch play. I love watching her play."

What wasn't there to appreciate about Sary? She was a versatile player, who performed wherever Glenn asked her to play.

She just didn't play. She dominated matches.

Sary is the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year.

She picked up many accolades, the All-Orange County Player of the Year award and All-CIF Southern Section Division I-AA and first-team All-Sunset League honors, while starting at a new position in high school.

Knowing she was going to play setter at USC after high school, Glenn needed Sary at outside hitter. She always wanted to hit the ball, after distributing the ball her previous years with the Sailors.

She ended up hammering it more than she expected, finishing with an area-best 452 kills, and it beat her up.

Her shoulder hurt. Then her neck.

The more the Sailors won, the more balls Sary pounded away.

The Sailors (26-10) made it to their second section final against Los Alamitos in the last three years and then the semifinals of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs. They played seven matches in the playoffs.

During the postseason stretch, Sary, a three-time Dream Team pick, averaged almost 22 kills per match. She produced a career-high 37 kills in a five-set win in the opening round of the state playoffs at Fresno Clovis West.

The playoff ride ended on the road, closer to home. The Sailors lost to Los Angeles Marymount in a five-set match, which Sary believes could have gone Newport Harbor's way.

Sary, who finished with 183 assists, 112 digs, 29 blocks and 20 service aces for the season, looked back at her final match.

"We needed an extra push," said Sary, who pushed herself and the Sailors to do their best.

The rest of the players on this year's Dream Team feature:

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Britton Taylor

Corona del Mar

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The senior middle blocker elevated her play late in the season, lifting the Sea Kings to their sixth straight Pacific Coast League title and third CIF Southern Section title match appearance in the last four years. Taylor finished with 15 kills and three blocks in the Division I-A section final five-set loss to Los Angeles Marymount. Taylor, who is 6-foot-2, also helped CdM reach the semifinals of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs. Taylor totaled 303 kills in 502 attempts and a CdM-best 57 blocks. Taylor earned a share of the Pacific Coast League MVP award and first-team All-Orange County and All-CIF Southern Section Division I-A honors.

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Zoe Kreitenberg

Sage Hill

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The senior middle blocker led the Lightning to the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA title, the school's second section crown. Kreitenberg finished with 15 kills, six blocks and one service ace in Sage Hill's 27-29, 25-21, 22-25, 25-18, 15-9 victory against rival St. Margaret's in the section final. Kreitenberg, who shared the Academy League MVP award, guided the Lightning to a first-place tie in league with St. Margaret's. Kreitenberg, who is 6-foot-2 and bound for Army, finished first on the Lightning with 304 kills and 46 blocks, to go with 52 aces. Kreitenberg earned All-CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA honors and an All-Orange County honorable mention. Kreitenberg is a two-time Dream Team selection.

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Hayley Hodson

Corona del Mar

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The freshman outside hitter started on a talented CdM team, fit in and flourished. Hodson, who is 6-foot-2, is the youngest and most talented member of the Dream Team. During the Sea Kings' run in the CIF Southern Section Division I-A playoffs and CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs, she hammered double-digit kills in six of the seven matches she played. She averaged 14.2 kills and 7.8 digs during the stretch in the postseason. Hodson's 347 kills ranked first at CdM and her 155 digs third, and she contributed 30 aces and 25 blocks. Hodson earned fifth-team All-Orange County and second-team All-Pacific Coast League honors.

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Kasey Thompson

Newport Harbor

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The senior moved to middle blocker from outside hitter after a starter left the Sailors during the season and she and Newport Harbor took off in the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA playoffs. Thompson's postseason experience pushed Newport Harbor into the section finale against Los Alamitos for the second time in three years. She clinched the Sailors' 25-22, 18-25, 25-16, 25-23 upset of Mater Dei in the semifinals with a kill. Thompson helped Newport Harbor advance to the semifinals of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs. She totaled 277 kills, 78 blocks, 36 digs and 27 aces. Thompson earned third-team All-Orange County and first-team All-Sunset League honors.

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Kelsey Humphreys

Corona del Mar

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The junior setter comes from a family of setters, but she's making a name for herself. Humphreys distributed the ball to a balanced CdM attack, which made a run at the CIF Southern Section Division I-A title and the California Challenge title at Torrey Pines. She led the area with 866 assists and contributed 164 digs, 60 kills, 41 aces and 32 blocks. Her best all-around performance was against rival Newport Harbor. She finished with 43 assists, six digs and four aces as CdM won the Battle of the Bay for the second straight year. Humphreys earned All-CIF Southern Section Division I-A, second-team All-Orange County and first-team All-Pacific Coast League honors.

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Tatum Norton

Newport Harbor

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The senior libero led by example and the Sailors followed. Norton delivered consistent high play throughout a Newport Harbor season, which started fast, then hit a bump during Sunset League play, before making a major run late as the Sailors reached the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA final for the second time in three years and the semifinals of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs. She finished with 278 digs and 23 aces. She has an offer from the University of Alabama. Norton earned All-CIF Southern Section Division I-A, first-team All-Orange County and first-team All-Sunset League honors.

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Mary McKennon

Corona del Mar

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The senior libero is considered one of the top players at her position in Orange County. McKennon adjusted to the move to libero well after excelling at outside hitter as a junior. McKennon is bound for UC Berkeley, one of the premier women's volleyball programs in the country. She led the area with 420 digs, and finished with 58 assists and 52 aces. She recorded a season-high 28 digs in the Sea Kings' four-set victory at Laguna Beach in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division I-A playoffs. McKennon earned third-team All-Orange County and first-team All-Pacific Coast League honors.

david.carrillo@latimes.com

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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