Young Laguna Beach pushed, but triumphs
LAKEWOOD - Coach Darren Utterback led the Laguna Beach boys volleyball program to its 11th CIF-SS finals appearance last season.
If there is going to be a 12th trip this season, the Breakers will have earned it with a relatively new cast.
The Breakers, who are the fourth seed in this year’s Division 2 playoffs, took another positive step in their development, defeating host Lakewood, 25-19, 25-12, 24-26, 25-19, in a second-round match Thursday.
“We started out well, but they put a lot of pressure on us with their ball control and defense, getting second, third and fourth touches to keep the ball alive,” Utterback said of Lakewood.
“In the third game, they kept that pressure on us and we were making some errors that we shouldn’t have made, but they were making us play third, fourth balls in one rally, so credit to them for putting that pressure on us.”
There is only one returning starter, Tyler Alter, for Laguna Beach this season. The Breakers lost to Esperanza in last year’s CIF final.
“They’re a different type of team,” Utterback said. “A lot of the mistakes we’ve made are still growing pains. There’s not enough experience to understand letting games slip away.
“We’ve had some great highlights this year, winning the Dos Pueblos Tournament and we’ve been kind of up and down since then. But it has all been a process because they’re so young. I can see the growth in them, it is just a matter of it coming together.”
After the Breakers dropped the third set, Pete Obradovich was determined not to let them drop the fourth.
The sophomore outside hitter, who finished with 17 kills, had seven kills on 10 attempts in the fourth set.
“It wasn’t a selfish thing, but he was telling our setter to set him the ball,” Utterback said.
Alter also had 17 kills and Dane Olson added 14. Setter Isaac Wulff had 55 assists.
“I thought overall it was a good match,” Utterback said. “Last year we had a battle with them too. They’re just a good, scrappy team.”
Laguna Beach will play Aliso Niguel in the quarterfinals Saturday at Laguna Beach.
This will be the 35th quarterfinals appearance for the program.
Aliso Niguel swept La Canada, 25-20, 25-22, 25-21, in a second-round game Thursday.
Laguna Beach and Aliso Niguel haven’t met this season.