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Royal High Finds Its Way to Section Title

Volleyball: Highlanders' bus gets lost, but squad arrived with their game to finish off Huntington Beach.


CYPRESS — They arrived as a disheveled bunch, sprinting down the bleachers, rushing through warmups, looking like anything but a team that was about to play for a championship.

Then the members of the Royal High girls' volleyball team went out and won a championship.

The Highlanders defeated Huntington Beach Marina, 15-7, 6-15, 15-11, 16-14, in the Southern Section Division I-A final Saturday night at Cypress College.

Courtney Guerra, who committed to California last week, had 26 kills and only eight hitting errors for the top-seeded Highlanders (31-4), who won their first sectional championship since 1989 and avenged a loss to Marina in the semifinals last season.

The match began 12 minutes late because the Highlanders' team bus missed the freeway exit.

Once they found their way, it was silent for the final five minutes of the ride, Guerra said.

"That was when we got ready [mentally] for the match, instead of doing it once we arrived," she said. "I think it helped."

Most observers would agree.

Holding a 2-1 lead in games, the Highlanders trailed in the fourth game, 14-9.

But they scored the final seven points, fighting off four game points in the process, and won the match.

"It just proves what we've had all year," Coach Bob Ferguson of Royal said. "We felt we were going to win it and we got aggressive. We didn't do any roll shots or anything."

Teresa Russell may have been wearing the wrong jersey--she brought the wrong color and had to borrow the jersey of teammate Jennifer Vermilyea--but she finished with 14 kills and eight blocks for Royal.

Russell had seven kills and five blocks in the fourth game.

"We were a little scared, but we did not want to go to a fifth game," Russell said. "When we were down, I was like, 'We've got to come back and win.' "

Royal defeated Marina in a two-game match of the Orange County tournament in September, though the Vikings were without starting outside hitter Katie Keating, who had 10 kills Saturday night.

Chanda McLeod finished with 21 kills, and setter Ashlee Phillips, who has committed to Wake Forest, had 43 assists and seven kills for second-seeded Marina (19-2).

Guerra had nine kills in the first game, but Royal stalled in the second game with eight service errors.

In the third game, the Highlanders took a 14-11 lead on a block by Russell and closed out on a hitting error by McLeod.

Royal probably will be second- or third-seeded in Division I for the state tournament, which begins Tuesday.

Newport Harbor, which won the Division I-AA title, likely will be top-seeded.

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