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

For in-game updates, scores, news and more for all of the San Clemente High School fall sports teams, follow us on Twitter @SouthOCsports.

Defensive Display Pushes Tritons Volleyball Past Chargers in CIF

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, defensive-minded approach in a three set 25-14, 25-23, 25-16 victory.

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.

Football Claims Outright League Title, Preps for Playoffs

The San Clemente High School football team inched closer to their goal of redemption on Nov. 7 with a convincing 56-15 road victory over Aliso Niguel.

Not only did the win ensure an outright Sea View League title for the Tritons, it solidified their second-place standing in the CIF-SS Southwestern Division. At this time last season, the Tritons were owners of a 2-8 overall record.

The Tritons (9-1, 4-0 league) entered the week ranked No. 2 behind Corona del Mar and remained in that position when the CIF-SS offices issued their playoff brackets Nov. 9. San Clemente will host Fullerton on Nov. 14 in the first round at 7 p.m.

San Clemente scored the first points of the game against Aliso Niguel without its offense on the field. Sophomore Brandon Reaves returned a Wolverines punt 56 yards for a touchdown less than two minutes into the contest to give his team an early 7-0 lead.

The Tritons offense would score two more times in the opening quarter, on a nine-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sam Darnold to Vlad Dzhabiyev and a one-yard Dzhabiyev run, and got a touchdown out of its defense when Liam Eldridge intercepted a Nick Chapman pass and returned it 57 yards for a score.

Darnold broke off a 14-yard scoring run to open up the second half to take a commanding 35-8 lead.

Darnold was especially effective in the first half, completing 16 of 18 passes for 225 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Darnold was taken out of the game in the third quarter and finished the night with 256 yards and three touchdowns, completing 18 of 20 passes.

Darnold’s last throw of the night was a five-yard touchdown to Dzhabiyev that capped a six-play scoring drive, putting the Tritons on top 49-8 early in the third.

If Aliso Niguel was able to pull off an upset win over the Tritons, San Clemente would have split the league title with Trabuco Hills.

“We didn’t want to share any of that trophy with Trabuco Hills so it was a good team win,” Darnold said.

Fullerton (5-5, 2-3) earned an at-large berth into the playoffs after finishing fourth in the competitive Freeway League. The Indians offense seems balanced on paper. Senior quarterback Andrew Tavarez and receiver Kaene Soto have been an effective combination all season and Fullerton’s group of running backs get a healthy amount of carries per game.

The Tritons easily defeated the Wolverines with standout cornerback and receiver Jake Russell out with an injury. He has been deemed day to day for Friday’s game by head coach Jaime Ortiz. Russell provides the Tritons with extra security in the secondary and big-play capability on offense.

For those who can’t make it to the game, the Friday Night Live broadcast team will be live steaming the game online. Visit www.schsfnl.com for a live video feed.

Girls Tennis Playoff Run Ends in Second Round

The San Clemente girls tennis team was able to breeze past South Pasadena in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs on Nov. 5 but came up against eighth-ranked Santa Margarita in the second round and lost, 11-7.

The Tritons season was highlighted by a first-place finish in the South Coast League. It was the first time the program claimed a share of the league title since 1978.

Loss to Chargers Hands Tritons Water Polo Third-Place League Finish

The San Clemente boys water polo team’s final game on Nov. 6 against El Toro decided who would finish second and third in the competitive South Coast League.

San Clemente held a slim 5-4 lead over the Chargers at halftime, but watched as El Toro came storming back in the final half to win, 10-7. El Toro outscored San Clemente 6-2 in the final two quarters to win the match and finish second in league. The Tritons settled for a third-place finish.

The match also had an impact on the team’s seeding in the playoffs, which begin this week.

The ninth-ranked Tritons will travel to play No. 5 San Marcos in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs on Nov. 13. Had the Tritons defeated El Toro, they would have likely played Damien, the second-place team out of the Baseline League, in the first round. Instead, San Clemente must play a first-place team and a highly ranked divisional opponent.

If the Tritons advance past San Marcos, they will play the winner of Mira Costa/Santiago-Corona in the quarterfinals on Nov. 15.

San Clemente senior cross country runner Katie Carroll finished 13th at the South Coast League finals on Nov. 6. Photo: John Carroll
San Clemente senior cross country runner Katie Carroll finished 13th at the South Coast League finals on Nov. 6. Photo: John Carroll

Tritons Girls X-C Places Fifth in League, Advance to CIF

The San Clemente girls cross country team will find themselves in a familiar place Saturday, Nov. 15. The team will compete on the well-known Mt. SAC cross country course in the CIF-SS Prelims for the ninth consecutive year.

The Tritons advanced to postseason competition yet again, despite finishing fifth at the South Coast League finals on Nov. 6 at Irvine Regional Park.

Senior Katie Carroll finished 13th at league finals with a time of 18:15. Senior Kelsey Carroll finished 19th and sophomore Brooke Eisele placed 22nd for the Tritons.

The South Coast League is among the most competitive leagues in Orange County and features three teams, including the Tritons, ranked inside the Division 1 top-13. San Clemente is currently ranked in a tie for 13th. The other two teams in the league, Capistrano Valley and Tesoro, are ranked second and 10th, respectively, in Division 2. The strong mix of teams in the league they compete in and their year-long performance earned the Tritons a postseason berth. The top-5 teams at the CIF-SS Prelims will advance to the CIF-SS Finals.

SC Boys Cross Country Takes Second in League

Junior Connor Dunne paced the San Clemente boys cross country team to a second-place finish at the Sea View League finals at Irvine Regional Park on Nov. 5.

Dunne finished the course in a time of 15:32 to pick up crucial points for the Tritons. Junior Sean Riley and senior Matthew Shelton finished 11th and 12th, respectively. Senior Joshua Vollebregt (14th) and junior Jeremy Brady (15th) round out the top finishers for the Tritons, who finished behind first-place Tesoro.

The Tritons will compete in the CIF-SS Prelims at Mt. SAC on Nov. 15.

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