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Newport Harbor boys volleyball battles Loyola for sets, emerges with Division 1 crown

LONG BEACH >> The Newport Harbor boys volleyball team needed one set to get comfortable in its CIF-SS Division 1 championship match against top-seeded Loyola on Saturday at Long Beach City College.

Once this group of Sailors, who’ve been in championship matches before, calmed their nerves and began attacking in the second set, the tone of the match quickly changed.

The No. 3 seed Sailors fell behind twice in the match but pulled out a five-set victory, 15-25, 25-20, 20-25, 25-19, 15-12, to come away from the Division 1 final as champions.

Newport Harbor (25-5) appeared tentative in the first set and the Cubs (21-3) took advantage by taking a double-digit lead and handing the Sailors their worst single-set loss in the postseason.

“You just have to have that next-point mentality that whole entire time, and if you think about that last point too much it will catch up with you,” Sailors outside hitter James Eadie said. “We just had to loosen up and play our game.”

The Sailors quickly erased the memory of a poor showing in the first set by jumping out to a 6-1 lead in the second.

Eadie, who is headed to Pepperdine, finished with 13 kills and had three huge blocks early in the second set to give the Sailors a 13-7 lead.

Luca Curci’s kill later in the set gave Newport Harbor an 18-10 lead, and a pair of kills from Eadie down the stretch got the Sailors even in the match.

“There was nothing in the first set that resembled the volleyball that we can play,” Sailors coach Eric Valley said. “I feel like in the second set, we rebounded and showed that. There are going to be times when other teams throw the first punch, but it’s about getting back up and returning it. I think once we got that second set, we really started to believe.”

In the third set, six kills from the left side by USC-bound Dillon Klein helped the Cubs stay ahead from start to finish.

Klein led all players with 22 kills and was nearly impossible to defend when swinging from the left side.

The fourth set featured 11 ties and was the closest of any set.

Jake Read’s ace gave the Sailors a 20-16 lead and consecutive kills by Eadie, Read and Curci gave the Sailors the victory, sending the match to a fifth set.

The Sailors were the more aggressive team in the fifth set, and they never trailed after taking a 6-5 lead.

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