HUNTINGTON BEACH — Newport Harbor High wanted to play the Sunset League playoff match at Huntington Beach. Edison preferred Fountain Valley.
One of the reasons the Sailors objected to the Chargers' neutral site was because of the slippery floor at Fountain Valley. Fountain Valley was also the place where the Sailors fell last week, losing in five sets, and putting them in the dire situation they were in on Wednesday.
The Sailors played Edison at Huntington Beach, but they were tripped up again, costing them any chance to qualify for the CIF Southern Section Division 1 boys' volleyball playoffs. The Chargers won, 25-23, 21-25, 23-25, 27-25, 20-18, clinching third place and the league's final guaranteed postseason berth.
With both teams below .500 overall, only the winner of the third-place tiebreaker advances to the playoffs. The loser goes home.
The Sailors (10-19) do have one more match left in the regular season. The contest, the Battle of the Bay against rival Corona del Mar, is usually a big one. Having dropped the battle for the Sunset League's final playoff entry, the Sailors are closing out the season on Friday in an unusual way.
It isn't every year that the Sailors miss the playoffs. They made it the past two seasons under-then coach Steve Astor, and for a quarter of a century under Dan Glenn, the Sailors were perennially in the playoffs.
In Bryan Cottriel's debut season in charge of Newport Harbor, the program failed to move on to the postseason.
"It's a shame that any team had to lose that match," Cottriel said. "I didn't feel like we lost it. I felt like they won it."
The Sailors had match point. Clay Carr put them in position to knock off Edison (10-16). The Pepperdine-bound senior produced his 20th kill and followed that up with his sixth service ace.
To stop the momentum, with Newport Harbor ahead, 14-13, Edison Coach Trent Jackson called a timeout. The Sailors never again had match point. The Chargers did, five times, and on the final one, they put it away, thanks to the Sailors' four touches on their final possession.
The Chargers stormed the court, while the Sailors gathered their belongings and began to walk out of the gym, to the bus. Cottriel stayed behind to talk reporters, going over Carr's stellar all-around performance, which included nine digs and four blocks, and going over the season. The tough setbacks, the loss at Fountain Valley that allowed the Chargers to force a tiebreaker was the obvious one. The Barons earned their first league win against Newport Harbor, which wound up losing three of its final four league contests.
"We played probably one of the toughest schedules there is anywhere. We played in three of the toughest tournaments [in the Best of the West, the Orange County Championships, and the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions] that we can possibly find," Cottriel said. "We got off to a bad start in terms of wins and losses, and it put us kind of behind the eight ball."
The Sailors gave Edison hope on April 29. The Chargers lost that evening to Los Alamitos in three sets, believing its postseason aspirations were over. Jackson had told his team that it needed to beat Los Alamitos to make the playoffs.
"We were all bummed out on the bus ride back, and all of a sudden we get these text messages, 'Hey! Newport lost to Fountain Valley,' so those spread like wildfire," said Jackson, who told his team, "Hey! We're back in it. All we need to do is win the rest of our [matches] and there will be a tiebreaker probably at the end."
It pretty much played out that way for the Chargers. They and the Sailors finished 5-5 in league, splitting their two meetings to set up the league playoff match.
At the start, Newport Harbor almost ran away with it. The Sailors went ahead, 9-1, in the opening set, before Jackson called a timeout. The Sailors led by as many as 10, and then the Chargers roared back to win it.
Shad Harris and Jack Dorman led the way for Edison, finishing with 17 kills and 13 kills, respectively. The two also rallied the Chargers in the decisive fifth set. Newport Harbor took a 5-1 lead, with Spencer Lawrence and Carr stuffing back-to-back shots. Nic Sargeant played at a high level for the Sailors, recording 26 digs, and Wyatt Walton added 15 kills and four blocks.
It wasn't enough to keep the Sailors' season alive past Friday. When they play host to CdM, the CIF Southern Section will have released its playoff pairings. The Sailors won't be included.