The chatter in the Newport Harbor locker room before Tuesday's Southern Section Division II-AA girls' volleyball semifinal match at Huntington Beach Edison turned to a familiar theme, even though the eight seniors who make up the Sailors' heart and soul knew it might have a telling effect on their performance.
On the horizon, should they defeat Edison, was almost assuredly another shot at top-seeded Manhattan Beach Mira Costa. None of those seniors have beaten Mira Costa in their careers. In fact, Mira Costa tagged them with a pair of close losses in late August at the Ann Kang Memorial Tournament in Honolulu, including a three-game victory in the championship match.
Just how much a rematch meant to those seniors appeared to show time and time again Tuesday night. Newport Harbor found the will to fight off a determined Edison team to earn what those seniors were looking for. But in the process it seemed clear that thoughts about a rematch might have played a part -- albeit a tiny one -- in the lack of concentration that overcame the Sailors at several crucial junctures of their 27-25, 12-25, 22-25, 25-19, 17-15 victory.
Second-seeded Newport Harbor, the defending division champion, gets its wish. It plays Mira Costa, which swept Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley, Saturday at Cypress College. The time of the match will be announced today.
Edison put up a fight, using several Newport Harbor errors and the hitting of Colleen Burke to take a two-games-to-one lead. The Chargers were leading, 18-15, in the fourth game as Newport Harbor continued to attempt to find its rhythm. But then the Sailors went on a 9-0 run for a 24-18 lead and the momentum never switched back.
The fifth went back and forth until Newport Harbor senior Alyson Jennings put away the final two kills of the game.
Jennings was the first player to admit that at least some of the pregame talk was about Mira Costa. Heck, since the team got back to the mainland, most of the locker room talk has been about Mira Costa.
"We were talking about it in the locker room. There are eight seniors that have never beaten Mira Costa," said Jennings, who finished with 14 kills. "This is fate."
Senior Kellie King, who did most of the setting along with Jennings, said the team just wanted to "get past this game."
Senior Lauren Miller, who sat out the Kang Tournament with an injury, came up with several key aces and kills and served during several long runs for the Sailors on Tuesday night. She said it was important not to look past Edison, especially when the Chargers went up by a game.
"We knew we had to get the fourth game," she said. "They didn't have to win it. We did."