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Royal Hits Road and Runs Over Palisades

Volleyball: Highlanders sweep past City Section champions in first round of state playoffs.


PACIFIC PALISADES — Winning the Southern Section Division I-A championship might have earned Royal High the No. 2 seeding in the southern region of the girls' state volleyball playoffs.

But it wasn't enough to secure the Highlanders a home match in the first round.

"There is something called a 'travel priority' that is different than the tournament seeding," Coach Bob Ferguson of Royal said following the Highlanders' 15-7, 15-6, 15-2 first-round victory over Palisades on Tuesday night.

"Only the top team in each section gets the first round at home. We were second in our section [behind Division I-AA champion Newport Harbor]."

Even without the home-court advantage, Royal (32-4) swept the City Section champions in 1 hour 27 minutes behind 20 kills and 10 digs from outside hitter Courtney Guerra.

It was the Highlanders' first victory in state playoff competition in any sport.

Teresa Russell added 11 kills and four blocks for Royal, which will play Huntington Beach Marina, which beat Torrey Pines, in the quarterfinals Saturday.

Opposite hitter Lauren Carter had 19 kills for Palisades (23-1).

"She was one of the best hitters we've seen, but we started defending her in the second game," Ferguson said of Carter. "They tried switching her from side to side to confuse us, but it didn't help. We knew where she was."

Royal fell behind, 5-2, in the first game, but Russell pounded back-to-back kills to spark a 7-0 scoring run.

In Game 2, the Highlanders jumped to a 6-0 lead behind the serving of Carly Huffman, who had two aces.

By the third game, it was evident the Highlanders had too many weapons for Palisades to defend. Ferguson emptied his bench near the end of the match--a luxury Coach Dave Suarez of Palisades didn't have.

The Dolphins dressed only nine players and only seven played.

"I'd love to have the kind of depth they have," Suarez said. "We just don't. I thought we played better than we did in the City finals, but this is the best team we've played all year. They run a much more complicated offense than we are used to seeing, and they run it well."

Annette Wilson and Michaela Skelly shared the setting duties for Royal.

Wilson finished with 20 assists and Skelly had 12.

DIVISION III PLAYOFFS: * Harvard Westlake defeats Exeter, 15-3, 15-3, 15-1. Page 9

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