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By Zach Cavanagh

DANA POINT – Last season was the end of an era for the Dana Hills boys volleyball team.

The Dolphins missed the postseason for the first time since 2006, and longtime coach Oz Simmons stepped down.

Under first-year head coach Taylor Hammond, Dana Hills is back in the playoffs in CIF-SS Division 2 and has already reached the height it did during the previous playoff streak.

Dana Hills dominated the first set, battled out the second set and recovered in the fourth set to down San Marcos, 25-13, 25-23, 21-25, 25-20, in the CIF-SS Division 2 second round on Thursday, May 2 at Dana Hills High School.

“We are growing up as a team all together,” Hammond said. “We’re playing really, really hard for each other. It’s really fun to see.”

The Dolphins advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014, when Dana Hills made the Division 1 quarterfinals in three straight seasons. Dana Hills hasn’t advanced to the CIF-SS semifinals since 2002 and the CIF-SS Final since winning in 1986.

The task will be tall as the Dolphins travel down the road to take on No. 1 seed Saddleback Valley Christian in the Division 2 quarterfinals on Saturday, May 4. SVC beat Northwood in four sets in the second round and has advanced to the CIF-SS Final in five of the last six seasons. SVC also beat Dana Hills at SVC in four sets on March 8.

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Dana Hills is ready for the challenge. The Dolphins were tested on a run to a third-place finish in the South Coast League behind co-champions San Clemente and Tesoro, ranked No. 8 and No. 10 in Division 1, respectively.

“If you look at our schedule, I don’t think there’s a tougher schedule out there with our preseason and our league,” Hammond said. “That’s what’s put us in those situation so at the end of the season we can be good. They’ve been in the situation, been tested and can grow up with it.”

Dana Hills got off to a strong start on Thursday with its service pressure. From there, it was the combination of Chase Morrison setting up the Dolphin strikers along with an excellent team defensive effort on digs.

Morrison had 55 assists. Nicholas Rigo led the Dolphins with 17 kills, Trevor Gaynor hit 16 kills and Noah Rigo added 12 kills.

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