Newport Harbor players celebrate their 3 games to 1 victory over Huntington Beach during Friday's Sunset League match on April 7, 2017. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

Newport Harbor fends off challenge from No. 6 Huntington Beach


NEWPORT BEACH - Cole Pender led the way as second-ranked Newport Harbor topped No. 6 Huntington Beach, 25-20, 25-17, 15-25, 25-23, on Friday in a Sunset League boys volleyball match at Newport Harbor High.

Pender contributed in all areas for the Sailors (18-4, 5-0). The UCLA commit had a team-high 15 kills and six digs.

“His (Pender) serving got us out of a couple of bad situations and gave us a lead,” Newport Harbor coach Rocky Ciarelli said. “He’s a good passer and good defensive player, and just a good all-around game.”

Newport Harbor trailed Huntington Beach, 19-18, in the first game. The Sailors went on a 7-1 run to win the game.

Huntington Beach coach Craig Pazanti said afterward that losing the first game was a significant blow to his team's bid to win on the road.

“I thought we let them off the hook a little bit," said Pazanti, whose team dropped to 4-2 in league. "We really needed to get the first set for our guys to really believe that we can win here.”

After winning the second game, 25-17, the Sailors ran into trouble in the third game. Huntington Beach took a 10-7 lead and forced a Newport Harbor timeout.

Following the timeout, the Oilers went on a 7-1 run and cruised to a 25-15 win. The offensive trio of Mitchell Bollinger, Noah Franklin and Alexander Anastassiates put pressure on the Sailors defense.

“We lost our composure a bit in the third game. Huntington is a good team,” Ciarelli said. “We started worrying about the plays we didn’t make instead of worrying about the next play.”

Pazanti credited his team's blockers for the success it had in the third game.

“We dialed the lineup a little bit to get different matchups and we started blocking the ball a little better,” Pazanti said. “We blocked three or four balls in a row and they (Newport) started pressing a bit.”

The Sailors bounced back and won a competitive fourth game, 25-23. Dayne Chalmers and Drew Johnston scored the final two points for Newport.

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