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NEWPORT BEACH – Los Alamitos High entered its Sunset League girls volleyball match at Newport Harbor on Thursday with an overall record of 22-1, a No. 1 ranking in the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA poll and a No. 10 national ranking by ESPN Rise.

But none of that would have mattered much if the Griffins had lost to the Sailors, their chief adversaries.

Thanks to the likes of Jojo Schnabl and Alijah Gunsaulus – among others – Los Alamitos defeated Newport Harbor 25-23, 13-25, 27-25, 25-21 to earn its most important victory of the season.

Schnabl had 12 kills – including the match-winner – and Gunsaulus had nine to lead the Griffins. Afterward, Schnabl stood on the court at Newport Harbor. She couldn’t stop smiling.

“This match really is setting the tone for our season because it’s our big rival,” Schnabl said. “We lost to them in the (CIF) final two years ago. We just wanted to come out fired up and kick some (butt).”

Coach Dave Huber was stoked.

“Getting a win here is always huge,” said Huber, who also was smiling big. “Especially early on in league; it’s only our third match and you don’t want to fall behind as far as the standings go right away.

“So to beat a team that good at their place, it’s big.”

Los Al (23-1) is now 3-0 in league. Newport Harbor (13-4) is 1-1.

It was kind of a strange match. The Griffins appeared on their way to losing the first set, down 23-21 and the Sailors with the momentum. But Los Al scored the next four points, a kill by Crissy Jones (seven kills, three blocks) sealing the deal.

However, the Griffins came out flat in the second set and were never in it.

“I think we stopped communicating in the beginning of the (set) and we didn’t really support each other and get things going again, and we definitely did that in the third and fourth sets,” Schnabl said.

Huber said he didn’t know what to think about that awful second set.

“I wish I could tell you, I could prevent it next time,” he said. “We just got flustered, girls started putting their heads down instead of working our way through it like they had in the past, and you saw the result.”

Los Alamitos bounced back to win the third set, but nearly blew it. Leading 23-17, the Griffins couldn’t put away the Sailors, who eventually tied things at 25. But a kill by Jaylen Villanueva (eight kills) and a hit out by Newport Harbor’s Claire Castillo saved the day.

The Griffins were in control of the fourth set, never leading by less than three points once they took a 14-11 advantage.

Newport Harbor coach Dan Glenn said Los Al taking that first set was the key to his team’s loss.

“The real thing I’m disappointed about is the first set because the first set we were kind of in control and then we let them back in,” he said.

“So that’s the one that really hurt us.”

Cinnamon Sary led the Sailors – ranked No. 4 in Division I-AA – with 13 kills and two blocks. Kasey Thompson and Alex Holbrook had six kills apiece.

Rachel Fattal contributed 23 assists for the Griffins, who next play host to Fountain Valley in a league match.


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