San Clemente senior Natalie Knauf had four kills in the Tritons three-set sweep of Edison in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 1AA playoffs Nov. 11. Photo: Steve Breazeale
San Clemente senior Natalie Knauf had four kills in the Tritons three-set sweep of Edison in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 1AA playoffs Nov. 11. Photo: Steve Breazeale

By Steve Breazeale

Two months ago, the San Clemente girls volleyball team lost a closely contested five-set match to Edison in a nonleague contest. At the time, Tritons first-year head coach Tom Beard realized his team needed to fortify their defense and blocking efforts if they were to improve and make a run in postseason play.

A lot has changed in those two months.

The Tritons played host to Edison in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 1AA playoffs on Nov. 12 and rather than go the distance with the Chargers, San Clemente relied on an efficient and defensive-minded approach in a three set sweep, 25-14, 25-23, 25-16.

San Clemente will play Lakewood, the No. 2 team in the division, in the second round on Nov. 13.

San Clemente’s back line defense and presence at the net neutralized the outside hitters of Edison, never letting the lead grow to more than five points all night, allowing the Tritons hard swinging offense to take control.

The Tritons defense recorded 70 digs, highlighted by Tatum Harvey’s team-high 18 digs, which fueled the Tritons transition game. Sophomore middle blocker Cassie Stewart and junior opposite Marie Paris led the defensive effort up front. Stewart, who had six blocks, and Paris teamed up for a tandem block that ended the first set and closed out an 8-0 run by the Tritons.

“At the beginning of the season our defense wasn’t strong. We focused on it and it showed tonight,” Beard said. “We had some really good defensive plays. It was solid all the way around. The blocking was better than it’s ever been. I think we’re on the right trajectory.”

Edison came out swinging in the second set, taking a 6-1 lead before San Clemente’s junior outside hitter Cali Hoye took over. Hoye recorded four of the Tritons next eight unanswered points to help re-take the lead and control of the set. Hoye had seven kills in the second set and finished the night with a team-high 18 kills.

Paris contributed a game-high 39 assists.

San Clemente took advantage of several Edison serving errors midway through the third set, which fueled a 4-0 run that gave the Tritons a commanding 16-10 lead.

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