HUNTINGTON BEACH — The second Sunset League girls' volleyball match between Newport Harbor High and Huntington Beach began like the first one. The Oilers won the first two sets.
Newport Harbor Coach Dan Glenn hoped Tuesday's match would end like the previous one.
The Oilers didn't allow the Sailors to rally this time around. After they took the first two sets by identical scores, the Oilers held on for a 25-23, 25-23, 28-26 sweep to move into sole possession of second place in league with two league matches left.
"When you get a chance to win, you've got to put them away," said Coach Craig Pazanti, whose Oilers (15-12, 6-2 in league) are now ahead of the third-place Sailors (15-8, 5-3). "That's why I didn't want that match to go any longer than it had to. We got a lot of injuries. We've been beat up all year."
Huntington Beach, with libero Kelynn Mullally playing with a sprained ankle, outside hitter Megan Gibbs returning from a thumb injury and outside hitter Jordyn Sanchez still out with an ankle injury, almost hurt itself in the third set.
The Oilers almost allowed Newport Harbor to force a fourth set. The last time that happened, the Sailors won the fourth and fifth sets to pull off a comeback victory at home.
In the latest meeting, Huntington Beach had match point six times, before the host school closed out the Sailors.
Just as in the previous two sets, Newport Harbor found itself trying to come back late in the final set. Middle blocker Carolyn Bockrath helped the Sailors make it close, recording one of her 16 kills and one block. Leah Castillo served tough and setter Torey Thompson dished out 35 assists.
But mistakes cost the Sailors, as they did in the first couple of sets.
"I don't think they necessarily made the plays [down the stretch]. We missed a lot of serves at the end and made some unforced errors," Glenn said. "Just disappointing to kind of play like that and kind of give them games. We missed the serve to give the second game away. Then on that [last game], we missed two serves [when we were tied at 24-24 and tied at 26-26]. But that's stuff we just got to get better at. We got to kind of regroup."
There was a time Newport Harbor, ranked No. 7 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1-AA poll, was 4-0 in league and tied for first place with Los Alamitos.
That time has long passed. The Sailors have dropped three of their last four matches in league play.
The Sailors can still make a run at second and earn the league's No. 2 entry into the Division 1-AA playoffs. Next is a match at Marina on Thursday at 5:45 p.m., before Newport Harbor travels to compete in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions on Friday and Saturday.
"We're just trying to get better, which isn't necessarily the goal at the end of the season," Glenn said. "But with our team, it's kind of what we're doing. I still think our best volleyball can be ahead of us here. We just got to learn to play on the road. You can't make that many mistakes when you play on the road, and unfortunately, we made a few too many mistakes."
Despite the miscues, the Sailors can catch the Oilers in the league standings.
The Oilers have the tougher league schedule the rest of the way, at Los Alamitos on Thursday, followed by a league finale against Edison next week. Los Alamitos and Edison shared the league title last season.
Next week, Newport Harbor finishes league against the second-ranked Griffins. Los Alamitos is the team that handed the Sailors their first league setback on Oct. 10.
The match back then at Los Alamitos only lasted three sets. The Oilers, behind Kendra Koelsch (nine kills), Gibbs (nine kills) and setter Tara Stuhr (40 assists), made sure to knock off the Sailors in three sets as well.