NEWPORT BEACH — In less than a 24-hour period, the Newport Harbor High boys' volleyball team played its toughest two matches of the season.
The Sailors faced rival Corona del Mar, the No. 2-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 poll, on Monday. They had Manhattan Beach Mira Costa, the No. 3-ranked team in Division 1, on Tuesday.
That is a tough back-to-back draw, but Newport Harbor Coach Steve Astor said he loves to play the best teams.
The Sailors swept their first test on Monday by claiming the Orange County Championships Division 1 title on a neutral site.
On Tuesday, they were swept on their own court in a nonleague match.
The setback marked the first time the Sailors lost in three in a best-of-five match this season. Playing six matches during the three-day county tournament caught up to Newport Harbor.
Mira Costa looked well rested and definitely better than the Sailors, winning 25-18, 25-16, 25-19.
"They may be a little tired," Mira Costa Coach Mike Ninnis said of the Sailors.
Ninnis' Mustangs last played on Thursday. Just like back then, they finished their opponent in three sets, despite playing without their best player, USC-bound Chris Orenic.
"They get that guy back, if they do, they're going to be pretty dangerous," Astor said of Orenic, a senior outside hitter, who is dealing with a wrist injury.
The Mustangs (8-2) are already a team to be reckoned with. They're confident and deep.
They overcame everything on the road, including an error by the scorer's table. The scoreboard operator mistakenly gave the Sailors a two-point lead early in the first set.
The set should've been even. The Mustangs' assistants argued, but officials didn't correct the score. It was just a matter of time the score would show Mira Costa ahead.
The Mustangs closed out the first set on an 11-4 run. Keith Waddell created the most problems, pounding five kills and stuffing one shot in the opening set.
The Sailors (10-5) started the second set strong, getting ahead by as many as four points. Middle blocker Kevin Rakestraw recorded one of his eight kills, and middle blocker Clay Carr, who finished with nine kills, blocked a shot.
But the Sailors' lead quickly vanished.
Newport Harbor committed too many mistakes and Mira Costa, which finished fifth at the prestigious Best of the West Tournament in Poway, just had too much talent.
"We're the type of team this year that we have to play without making a lot of errors," said Astor, whose team has its Sunset League opener Friday at home against Edison at 5:45 p.m. "I want to see how they respond to this match. I don't care about the loss in the big scheme of things. I don't personally care about seeding [in the playoffs]. I just care about being really good at the end of the year."