HUNTINGTON BEACH — Friday marked the second time in four days Newport Harbor High faced Edison in Sunset League play. It wasn't supposed to play out this way, the same two boys' volleyball teams competing against each in such a short period.
Newport Harbor Coach Steve Astor called the start of the league schedule odd, but he's glad it worked out this way.
"I feel kind of fortunate we get to play them twice early because they're going to keep getting better and better," said Astor, who had a good reason to say that.
Astor saw the return of one of the top players in the area, Jimmy Webb. The senior just joined the Chargers this week.
He made his season debut on Friday and he almost rallied Edison to a victory at home. In the final set, his coach, Trent Jackson, said Webb got tired and it's because he hasn't practiced with the team the past six weeks.
The Sailors were able to survive another five-set match against the Chargers, beating them 25-22, 25-19, 21-25, 20-25, 15-13.
Newport Harbor wasn't at full strength either. The team played without one its big men, Clay Carr, and one of its setters, Scott Russell. Astor said both players are dealing with injuries and he expects them back next week.
The Sailors haven't had Carr for most of their last four matches, two at the OC Championships tournament, where they placed ninth and where Carr injured his ankle. Newport Harbor won its fourth straight match without him.
The Sailors' usual threat, 7-foot Kevin Rakestraw, continued to produce, tying teammate Peirce Ward with 13 kills. But two other players, Wyatt Walton and Will Cook, have elevated their play with Carr out.
Walton is the one who clinched the match for Newport Harbor, which has started league 2-0. The junior recorded one of his eight kills and the Sailors were able to ride back home on the bus still perfect in league.
Astor was happy with the result and happy that Edison was able to accommodate his team. The teams were supposed to open league on Friday, not on Tuesday, but the Sailors' spring break differs from the one Edison takes in April.
The coaches decided to move up the opener to Tuesday, so that it doesn't interfere with each team's spring break.
Looking back, Jackson knows his team would've been in a better position to beat the Sailors, if Tuesday's match had stayed where it was originally scheduled in early April.
"Jimmy walks in and he's had three days of practice, so will we be better in a couple of weeks, yeah," said Jackson, who gained one standout, but also lost another on the night.
Stephen Roach went down in the opening set with what Jackson said was a back injury. The senior never returned and just stood on the sideline with a bag of ice wrapped around his lower back.
The Chargers could've used the 6-foot-5 hitter. With Roach and Webb, who's 6-6, Edison might have won their first league match.
Webb struggled in the first two sets. As a result, the Sailors (11-5 overall) claimed both. Rakestraw played well during the stretch, hammering nine kills.
Rakestraw, who's bound for Stanford, wasn't heard from much in the third and fourth sets. This is where Webb began to get in a groove, collecting many of his eight kills.
Jackson said there was time he didn't think Webb would return to the court, because he was burned out from volleyball.
It was Webb who prevented the Sailors from sweeping Edison. He couldn't keep it up in the decisive fifth set.
In the way was Rakestraw. Newport Harbor setter Steven Duhoux (40 assists) found Rakestraw. And Rakestraw delivered, dropping in a couple of kills and blocking a couple of shots.
The Sailors didn't have to come from behind as they did in the fifth set on Tuesday at home. They were ahead from the start and stayed there.