For in-game updates, news and more for all the San Clemente High School sports programs, follow us on Twitter @SouthOCSports and on Instagram @South_OC_Sports, and sign up for weekly South OC Sports updates straight to your inbox.
There isn’t a moment for downtime in the gauntlet that is the 2023 girls volleyball South Coast League, and coming off its bye to open the second round of league play, San Clemente looks to have its focus for the stretch run.
After an opening-set buzzsaw from San Juan Hills on Tuesday, Oct. 3, San Clemente bounced back to control the final three sets in a four-set home victory, 13-25, 25-16, 25-18, 25-20, and edge into sole possession of second place in the South Coast League.
San Clemente (14-10, 3-2) plays at league-leading Dana Hills (17-4, 5-1) on Thursday, Oct. 5. Third-place San Juan Hills (11-10, 3-3) has a bye on Thursday before also playing at Dana Hills on Monday, Oct. 9.
San Clemente handed Dana Hills its only loss of league so far in a five-set match at San Clemente High on Sept. 19.
“Every team isn’t just talented, but every team is just fighting and scrapping for every play,” San Clemente coach Casey Swenson said of the league. “There’s going to be more of this the rest of the way.”
That competitiveness was evident from the start on Tuesday, as San Juan Hills looked poised for a second sweep of the Tritons. Despite losing their do-it-all star Alex Stone in their most recent match, the Stallions came out on fire with eight aces in the first set, including six from Sydney Hanson, to easily take down San Clemente, 25-13.
“They know how to prepare for us. They’re ready to go,” Swenson said of San Juan Hills. “I was proud of our girls for taking that hit and making the adjustments. We started to execute, started to do the things that we worked on. As the match went on, it really started to pay off for us.”
San Clemente battled forward in the second set, and sparked by solid play from Quinn Loper, the Tritons went on a 12-0 run to eventually win the second set, 25-16, and tie the match.
The Tritons again grabbed early control in the third set with leads of 9-3 and 13-4 before pushing out to a 10-point lead, 16-6. More kills from Loper and a pair of aces from Sarah Ahmadi gave San Clemente enough cushion to outlast a San Juan Hills push, 25-18.
In the fourth set, both teams stayed close and played to a 20-20 tie before San Clemente closed the door. Strong net play from Megan Dougherty, Pyper Nelson and Ashton Nelson spurred the Tritons home with the final five points of the set to win, 25-20, and take the match. Sofia Williams ended the match on an ace.
While the Tritons have their own tremendous talents in Loper and Williams on the outside, San Clemente showcased a greater balance at the net with the play of the Nelson sisters and Dougherty, specifically.
“It’s that attention to detail and being patient and not trying to do too much,” Swenson said. “They did a really good job being patient and letting those balls come to them. Towards the end, Megan, it’s so hard to work to those outside balls, and she just closed like a champion.”