Sailors drop to second in league

HUNTINGTON BEACH — A showdown for first place in the Sunset League ended rather quickly on Tuesday.

The sun was still out by the time the Newport Harbor High boys' volleyball team left the Huntington Beach gym. The Sailors went home no longer perfect in league play and no longer on top of the league.

The Sailors are the defending league champions, but the Oilers showed why they're the league favorites this season.

Huntington Beach swept the Sailors, 25-22, 25-21, 25-20, ending Newport Harbor's 17-match league winning streak, which dated back to 2010.

The Oilers took sole possession of first place in league. Their depth proved to be too much for Newport Harbor to handle.

Steve Astor, Newport Harbor's coach, came away impressed. He had watched film of Huntington Beach, but never got to see the Oilers play in person until Tuesday.

"They're a lot different animal in person," Astor said of the Oilers, ranked seventh in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll and 18th in the ESPN national high school poll.

The Oilers (10-3, 4-0 in league) have been dominant in league, having swept each of their four league matches.

Finishing the Sailors (13-6, 3-1) in three sets was good for Huntington Beach, which played the first of three matches in consecutive days.

The Sailors were supposed to give the Oilers their toughest test. This one was between two teams undefeated in league.

Astor liked the start, his Sailors taking a 17-13 lead in the first set. Then they let it slip away.

"If we … hold on and win that [set], it could've been a different match," said Astor, who saw the Oilers close out the opening set on a 12-5 run. "To their credit, they're good. They're just a super-balanced team. [They have] a lot of experience on this level. It's their second or third year for a lot of those guys on varsity. We can't match that experience right now."

Astor is hoping his Sailors can get to where the Oilers are by the time they play Huntington Beach again.

He reminded his team where the second league meeting will be played.

"We get a chance to play them one more time at home," Astor said of the April 27 match, which will be the Sailors' final league contest at home. "We'll see how much better we can get before then. Obviously, they'll get better, too."

That is scary because Huntington Beach is playing at a high level right now.

The Oilers' three losses have come against Servite, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa and Mater Dei, which are ranked second, third and ninth, respectively, in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll.

On every play, the Oilers have four or five players who can score. That makes it difficult for teams because they cannot just focus on one or two players.

The Sailors are usually strong on defense with their middle blockers, 6-foot-11 Kevin Rakestraw (eight kills) and 6-5 Clay Carr (13 kills), and libero Max Richley. Newport Harbor's defense had no answers for opposite Zack Gates, middle blocker Andrew Tenbrink, and outside hitters Kyle Baily and Edgar Palos.

One block is all Astor said his team recorded.

Tenbrink and Gates led the Oilers with 12 and 11 kills, respectively. This current team might be Coach Craig Pazanti's best in his four seasons in charge of the Oilers.

This Huntington Beach team also became the first to knock off the Sailors for the first time since 2009.

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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