After the crush and frenzy of Irvine High School's 15-6, 11-15, 15-13, 15-13 victory over previously undefeated Newport Harbor in the state Division I volleyball championship Saturday night, it was hard to get a grip on what exactly had been proven.
Irvine's coach, Mark McKenzie, probably did the best job of explaining it.
"I'm satisfied to be No. 1 tonight," he said. "I think we were the better team tonight. But, if we were to play Newport Harbor again tomorrow, I wouldn't bet the ranch on us winning again."
The match, which lasted two hours, started as expected, with Newport Harbor losing.
"We've always started slow this season," Newport Harbor Coach Dan Glenn said. "I guess that's just the personality of this team. So when we dropped the first game, 15-6, I thought we would come right back."
The Sailors did, 15-11, winning the game after being down by scores of 9-6 and 11-10.
The Sailors (21-1) tied the score at 11, then reeled off four straight points to win the match.
Newport Harbor's Jenny Evans put away three kills in that span to help the Sailors. Evans had 20 kills in the match.
In the third game, Newport Harbor, looking as if it had completely wiped the sleep from its eyes, tore to a 12-5 lead.
The hitting of Evans and Becky Sherwood, and some shoddy play by Irvine (21-2) got the Sailors the big lead.
And then, just as quickly, Newport Harbor fell apart, hitting bad serves, shots out of bounds and looking totally helpless in the face of the hitting of Irvine's Cari Delson.
Delson, the championship's most valuable player, led the Irvine surge that saw Vaqueros score seven straight points to win, 15-13.
"That was the turning point of the match," Glenn said. "To be up 12-7 and then to lose. That just killed us."
With Bev Oden (18 kills) leading the way in the fourth game, the Vaqueros looked as though they'd put away the match quickly, taking a 3-0 lead.
But Newport Harbor caught Irvine and passed it, taking a 7-3 lead.
Irvine slowly got back into the match, owing a lot to Delson (who had a total of 20 kills) and Oden, and some untidy play by Newport Harbor.
Irvine eventually tied the score at 11 and went ahead, 14-11, on a kill by Delson, a service ace by Stephanie Chiang, and a kill by Melinda Norton.
Newport Harbor came back to make the score 14-13 on two service aces by Sienna Curci.
Then followed six straight side outs until, after a long rally, Newport Harbor hit into the net, giving Irvine the game, match and state championship.