HUNTINGTON BEACH — The high school boys' volleyball showdown between Newport Harbor and host Huntington Beach began earlier than expected on Thursday.
It finished that way, too.
The match that featured undefeated Sunset League teams ended with the Oilers sweeping it 25-17, 25-23, 25-14.
They can relax now and look forward to their upcoming spring break. They're 3-0, perfect in league. They're also going away to a perfect place during their break.
While the Oilers travel to Honolulu for the Kamehameha Cup, a three-day tournament, the Sailors are staying home. All Newport Harbor has lined up next week in terms of a match is an alumni match.
"We're getting a long weekend off, try to get healthy, get after it, train hard," said Coach Steve Astor, knowing his Sailors need all of the above after seeing how far the gap is between them and the Oilers. "They're definitely better than us right now. That's not what I'm concerned about. I'm concerned about being the best we can be at the end of the year."
There was a time the Sailors (12-6, 3-1 in league) used to be the best team in the league, the favorites to win it. That no longer is the case. It hasn't been since last season, when Huntington Beach swept the two-match series against the Sailors and claimed the league title.
The Oilers (13-2 overall), ranked No. 5 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll, made it look easy in the first meeting against the No. 10 Sailors this season. They weren't even at full strength. They played without Brendan Sander, a returner who is out with a back injury, and Andrew Pearson, a transfer from Marina who isn't eligible to play yet.
Huntington Beach didn't even need the junior standout outside hitters. The players the Oilers showed up with were more than enough to end the Sailors' six-match winning streak.
Setter Matt Butler recorded 52 assists and he kept finding Andrew TenBrink and TJ DeFalco, who led the way for Huntington Beach, finishing with 15 kills apiece. They, along with the rest of the Oilers, seemed a step faster than the Sailors did.
The Sailors competed without standout Clay Carr (ankle) for the sixth straight match and they played the second match of a back-to-back. They haven't really had the best schedule in league, first having to play Edison twice last week, and then Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach on consecutive nights this week.
Blame the Sailors' spring break falling on a different week than the rest of the schools in the league.
When Newport Harbor resumes league play, the schedule will be wacky. The Sailors play host to Marina on April 9 and then travel to Los Alamitos the next day. By then, Astor said he expects to have Carr back.
The Sailors saw the return of Scott Russell on Thursday. He began the season as the setter, until Astor said he suffered a toe injury a couple of weeks ago. Steven Duhoux moved to setter, his natural position, after beginning the year at opposite.
Duhoux set against Huntington Beach. He also delivers passes for players on the Huntington Beach team, when they're playing for the HBC Volleyball Club. He knows the tendencies of players like TenBrink and Zach Gates, but that didn't make a difference in a league match between the Sailors and Oilers.
Gates, an opposite, produced eight kills and TenBrink, normally a middle blocker, performed well at outside hitter. The senior has filled in on the left side because the Oilers are without Sander and Pearson, both of whom Coach Craig Pazanti expects back in time for the Hawaii trip.
"We went last year and we won [the Kamehameha Cup], so they invited us back to play again," Pazanti of the tournament, which is in its second year. "It's kind of a vacation for our families, but at the same time we're there for a little business as well."
The Oilers took care of business against the Sailors by taking sole possession of first place in league. They can enjoy themselves a little in Hawaii.