Part of the deal for Bryan Cottriel to take over the Newport Harbor High boys' volleyball program involved one man. Cottriel wasn't going to take the Sailors' head coaching job without Dan Glenn assisting him.
Glenn sits right next to Cottriel during matches. There used to be a time when Cottriel helped Glenn.
Glenn stepped down as coach of the boys' program three seasons ago, right after the Sailors claimed their third undefeated Sunset League crown in four years. Glenn, who began coaching the boys in 1986, walked away from a successful run.
The next coach lasted two seasons, each time Newport Harbor placed second in league. Cottriel is the second coach to lead the Sailors since Glenn's departure from the top.
With Glenn back on the bench, Cottriel, in his first season in charge, expected the Sailors to contend for a title. Through three league matches, the Sailors aren't in first place. First is out of reach with the way powerhouse Huntington Beach is sweeping practically everyone and the way Newport Harbor is performing.
The Sailors played host to Edison on Tuesday, and one set is all they managed to win. They stole the opening set, before the Chargers prevailed, 27-29, 25-22, 25-22, 25-19, to improve to 2-0 in league.
"We were lucky to win that first set," said Cottriel, whose team dropped to 1-2 in league.
The Sailors haven't been so fortunate when it comes winning matches this season. They are 4-12 overall, already dropping more matches than they have in the past six seasons, and the Sailors are guaranteed at least eight more contests.
The last time Newport Harbor lost more than a dozen matches was in 2007, when it went 20-13. That year marked the school's first back in the Sunset League.
Since Newport Harbor's return to the league, it hasn't finished worse than second place. Placing second will be a challenge for this current team.
"I feel like we're right there," Cottriel said. "The young guys, [freshman] Landon [Monroe's] doing a good job of setting, the middles are starting to get better, [senior] Clay [Carr] is obviously Clay, and the outsides are starting to get better, too. We just can't sustain a high level of play. I don't know what it is."
During stretches, the Sailors compete, with Carr leading the way with 21 kills against Edison. They showed flashes in the first set. They rallied from a 24-21 deficit. The Chargers failed to close at set point three times.
Newport Harbor outside hitter Wyatt Walton started the comeback. He recorded one of his 10 kills, and then freshman middle blocker Spencer Lawrence served tough, dropping one of his three service aces.
After a Lawrence kill, the Sailors had set point. In their fourth chance at set point, the Sailors won, thanks to Shad Harris' shot hitting the net.
"I thought we should've won Game 1," Edison Coach Trent Jackson said. "We were in control. We were always up the whole time [after breaking a 3-3 tie]. There was a little [5-1] run there [by the Sailors] when we were up, [15-11], and we shank three straight and it was [16-15 in our favor]."
The first three sets played out tightly. The Sailors led, 19-16, in the second set, and in the third set, 21-19. Each time the leads didn't hold up.
Edison went on runs, and Garrett White and Will Donald helped with strong play in the middle. White, who finished with 13 kills, blocked a Carr shot and hammered a kill during the Chargers' 9-3 run to close out the second set.
The Chargers ran their middles a lot and it paid off. In the third set, down, 21-19, Donald stuffed a shot by Walton and Edison outscored the Sailors, 6-1, down the stretch.
"It was probably a mistake to have watched them play against Huntington," said Jackson, referring to scouting the Sailors on the road last Friday, when they were swept. "Huntington's so good [the Oilers] make another team that's pretty good look bad."