By Steve Breazeale
In a season filled with changes, winning became a constant for the Dana Hills girls volleyball team throughout their 2013 South Coast League run. On Monday the Dolphins repeated as league champions and ensured an undefeated league season by defeating visiting San Clemente in three sets, 25-17, 25-22, 25-16.
The Dolphins (22-6, 8-0 league) had to deal with an ever shifting lineup and a coaching change midway through the season. Several players would float in and out of the Dolphins rotation on a nightly basis, due to commitments to club and national teams. When former head coach Bryce Baum departed, assistant Tim Layton stepped in and attempted to mesh together whatever pieces he had. The result was a winning effort.
The Dolphins lineup against the Tritons (12-12, 6-2) on Monday exemplified the mix and match style. While standout senior outside hitter Tia Scambray remained a constant presence in the rotations, the Dolphins relied on several players to get past San Clemente, who could have won a share of the league title with a win.
San Clemente jumped out to a 12-9 lead in the first set but an 8-2 run by the Dolphins put the home team out in front. Junior middle blocker Kendall Smith led a Dolphins defensive effort up front during the run, providing key blocks. The Dolphins closed out the set on a 7-0 run.
Smith would finish the night with four blocks, tallying two in the second set, which Dana Hills won, 25-22. She also had two kills and two aces on the night. Smith is an opposite by trade but has filled in at middle blocker in recent weeks due to injuries.
“Smith is really good at volleyball. But we just couldn’t get her into an opposite spot. We had such holes in the middle that she learned how to play middle and started scoring,” Layton said. “Tonight she was a really nice spark. She blocked some balls and had a lot of passion.”
While the Tritons were in the mix throughout the first two sets, the third set was all Dana Hills. Scambray recorded six of her game-high 19 kills during the third and San Clemente had six unforced errors as the Dolphins coasted to a 25-16 set win and the league championship.
“Everybody contributes … everybody is good on this team,” Scambray said. “I think we were all expecting to win league and we did it proudly with whatever lineup we put out there. I think we are expecting to come out and play our hardest (in the playoffs).”