LOS ALAMITOS — The Newport Harbor High girls' volleyball team traveled to Los Alamitos on Wednesday to play for first place in the Sunset League. The last time these rivals met on the court was last year, when the CIF Southern Section Division 1-AA title was at stake.
Both programs are former shells of themselves when it comes to their starting lineups. The Griffins lost five starters and the Sailors four.
Despite the losses to graduation, each team has played at a high level this season. That changed for the Sailors in a showdown between two teams undefeated in league play.
They entered it without four players, three of whom start. Los Alamitos Coach Dave Huber noticed a different Newport Harbor team while watching warmups.
The difference was evident during the match, which the Griffins easily swept, 25-15, 25-16, 25-15, to remain atop the league. Huber looked surprised after he said his team swept the Sailors for the first time in league play since Newport Harbor rejoined the Sunset League six years ago.
"We knew that their one outside [hitter] was out with the injury," said Huber, referring to Tristen Thompson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Sept. 28.
Already without one of their best players, the Sailors were shorthanded against Los Alamitos (23-3, 5-0 in league), ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1-AA poll.
Coach Dan Glenn said standout junior middle blocker Carolyn Bockrath and senior setter Torey Thompson, along with senior outside hitter Sierra Brown and senior middle blocker Kaelin Davis missed the Sailors' second league match this week because they violated team rules. While Glenn never said what rules the four players broke, he said they would return to the team on Monday.
"It's disappointing that the girls got in trouble, whether we lost [Tristen Thompson] or not," said Glenn, adding that the outside hitter underwent surgery on Wednesday. "That's one of those things we got some rules and they didn't follow them. Now, we're just kind of moving on."
The No. 6 Sailors (14-6, 4-1) look to regroup before the start of the second half of league play. They will get another shot at Los Alamitos again in a league finale at home on Oct. 30.
The first matchup between these volleyball giants lasted as long as the previous one: three sets.
Los Alamitos is trying to finish perfect in league and win the crown outright after sharing it with Edison last year. Only the Chargers have gone the distance with the Griffins so far this year in league.
The Griffins might not face any competition until they make a run at a second straight section title. Glenn said they boast one of the premier high school players in middle blocker Crissy Jones.
The 6-foot-2 junior gave his Sailors problems with her size and shot. Whether the 6-2 Bockrath or the rest of the players who missed the match would've helped Newport Harbor against Los Alamitos, Glenn said it never crossed his mind.
"You've got to compete, and I didn't feel like we did that tonight. That was unfortunate," said Glenn, whose team was led by sophomore outside hitter Gabby Shelley's nine kills, sophomore setter Logan Grove's 23 assists and senior libero Hunter Jennings' seven digs.
"We're playing the third-ranked team in CIF, so if we don't play well, we're going to get our butts kicked. We didn't play well and we got our butts kicked."