Edison victory forces tie for first in Sunset League


HUNTINGTON BEACH - The fifth-ranked Edison girls volleyball team wasn’t at full strength heading into a crucial Sunset League match against rival and fourth-ranked Huntington Beach on Thursday night.

Senior outside hitter Hannah Phair was absent due to an injury suffered in practice, and her absence was magnified as the visiting Chargers dropped the first set.

Then came the roller coaster that led the Chargers to a wide-range of emotions, eventually ending with joy and a 18-25, 25-22, 25-19, 19-25, 15-11 victory, leaving the two teams tied for first place with three matches remaining.

The Oilers (25-3, 6-1) defeated Edison (26-7, 6-1) in three sets in the first meeting between the teams on Sept. 27.

“It is a huge victory,” middle blocker Kristin Austin said. “I’m really glad that we were able to pull together as a team and go out there and really take it to them.

“I think we tried to take the pressure off of each other and we all tried to ease each other into the game more, whereas usually we just go into it and Hannah would be there to lift everyone up.”

Austin’s performance (15 kills) told part of the story for the Chargers. Austin and Maggie Gunther were strong in the middle throughout the match.

“They did a great job against us tonight,” Huntington Beach coach Craig Pazanti said of Austin and Gunther. “We’re going to have to get better at defending that spot.”

Outside hitters Cassidy Dennison and Finley Garnett recorded 16 and nine kills, respectively for the Chargers. Lindsey Sparks had 48 assists and eight kills.

In the fifth set, the Chargers took the lead, 3-2, on a kill from Austin. The Oilers took the first timeout after a hitting error, but the Chargers had an 8-4 lead by that time.

The Oilers started to climb out of the hole and, thanks to consecutive kills from Jillian Kim and Cami Sanchez, cut the score to 10-7, forcing the Chargers into a timeout.

Out of the break, Gunther connected on a kill and she later added a block for a 13-8 lead and eventually the victory for the Chargers.

“Hannah (Phair) is a big part of our team, but we have a lot of good players and a lot of players stepped up and played really well,” Edison coach Matt Skolnik said. “Finley Garnett filled in and did a good job and our middles had a huge match tonight and picked up the slack with the kills we missed without Hannah.”

Both teams have three matches remaining in the regular season. The Oilers will face Fountain Valley, Marina and Newport Harbor. They swept the trio in the first half of league.

The Chargers have Newport Harbor, Los Alamitos and Marina remaining. They swept Newport Harbor and Marina, but went five sets to defeat Los Alamitos.

“This is big,” Skolnik said. “It puts us one step closer, even if it is a tie, to winning a league championship.”

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