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Beginning to believe

October 01, 2004

Mike Sciacca

Lance Stewart said a major piece missing from the puzzle is beginning

to be discovered by his Laguna Beach High girls' volleyball team.

It's something that has always been there, he said, but now, his

players are beginning to tap into that power.

"I think the biggest thing with this team is that it be able to

eventually believe that we are going to win," he said. "By having

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that attitude on the court, it will give us some confidence, which,

in turn, leads to becoming habit. That's something that hasn't been

there in the program the last couple of years."

Laguna has gotten the 2004 season off to a promising start and

took a 7-4 record into a Thursday nonleague match against Newport

Harbor.

The Breakers also got a jolt of confidence last weekend by winning

the 28-team Loara Tournament.

In pool play, Laguna defeated Valencia 25-18, 25-18, Saddleback

25-15, 25-10, and Savanna, 25-10, 25-13.

In playoff action, the Breakers turned back Marina, 25-21, and

Connelly, 25-20, then went on to defeat Santa Ana, 25-18, in the

tournament final.

Laguna junior left-side hitter Stephanie Darnall was named

tournament MVP and freshman left-side Dana Hutchinson and freshman

setter Paige Obradovich were named all-tournament.

The Breakers were ranked eighth this week in the latest

CIF-Southern Section Division IV-AA poll.

"I'm really pleased with the way this team has been playing,"

Stewart said. "The girls are working hard and are in good shape, and

they're playing with much more consistency."

Last year, Laguna put a young team on the floor. With a solid

nucleus of returners back -- Darnall, senior right-side Joy

Henderson, senior quick attacker Kristina Kieswetter, senior

left-side Blakley Burns, sophomore quick attacker Jilly Petersen and

junior right-side Marisa Jamison -- the Breakers seemed ready for a

breakout year.

Add to the mix junior defensive specialist Tori Boron and a strong

influx of freshmen, including Hutchinson, Obradovich, quick hitter

Laurille Hofer and left-side Rebecca Farrar, and Stewart's squad was

in place.

The Breakers also figure to get a boost from sophomore setter

Mychaela Miller, a transfer student who is still waiting clearance to

play from the CIF State office, Stewart said.

Perhaps what has pleased Stewart most about the 2004 Breakers is

that they've taken every match to the limit.

Laguna lost a tough, five-game match at Huntington Beach and each

match the Breakers played at the recent Dave Mohs Tournament, one of

the top prep tournaments of the year, went to a decisive game.

"What is exciting to see about this team is that, unlike last

year's team, this group has put itself in position to win every

match," he said. "That is so encouraging to see. By doing that,

that's when a team begins to believe in itself."

The Breakers will need to have their belief system in place

Tuesday. That's when they host Northwood in the Pacific Coast League

opener for both schools.

"Our league is nuts," Stewart said. "It's pretty brutal. Last

year, Corona del Mar and Northwood reached CIF finals, Tesoro reached

the semifinals -- all three in different divisions -- and University

reached the quarterfinals.

"There's not a team in our league that we can't beat. On the other

hand, any team in the league can beat us. That's how tough this

league is. Our girls will have to be ready every night."

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