Hannah Phair was unable to play in a couple of big matches for the Edison High girls’ volleyball team, one early in the season and one in the thick of it.
Each time she was away, Phair said she felt awful about it because her team was playing to get to a championship or to get back in the hunt for one.
She really had no control over both absences. The Chargers understood why Phair, the Daily Pilot Girls’ Volleyball Dream Team Player of the Year, was out.
First, a family wedding in Alabama that Edison knew about in advance forced Phair to leave her team early in Hawaii. She missed the semifinals of the Ann Kang Invitational in August, and the Chargers lost to Manhattan Beach Mira Costa.
Two months later, with the Chargers needing a win at Huntington Beach to move into a first-place tie in the Sunset League, Phair’s health knocked her out of action. She said she suffered a concussion in practice, and a day later, she came down with strep throat.
Edison Coach Matt Skolnik said he told Phair to stay home and rest. He also didn’t want Phair around to get her teammates sick. Too much was at stake.
Nothing kept Phair from going to the match.
Phair went and sat as far as way as she could from the court. She found a place in the corner of the bleachers. From the last row, Phair rooted for the Chargers, and they beat the rival Oilers on that Oct. 13 night without her in five sets.
“It was so much fun,” Phair said of watching the Chargers pull out a 18-25, 25-22, 25-19, 19-25, 15-11 win, as the result allowed them to finish atop the league with Huntington Beach at 9-1. “I was jumping up and down … and freaking out up there.”
Six weeks later, after both schools exited in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs, the Chargers and Oilers met again. The contest took place at Huntington Beach, two days after Thanksgiving, and this time they wouldn’t be sharing anything.
On the line was a trip to the CIF State Division I final, and Phair was healthy. She left the clapping to the fans in the gym. She came ready to make a difference as an outside hitter.
The 5-foot-10 senior did not let the third matchup between Edison and Huntington Beach go the distance. In the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I final, Phair put away the Oilers in three sets.
Phair finished with a match-high 17 kills in the Chargers’ 25-18, 25-21, 25-13 win, leading Edison to its first state finals appearance.
“Playing them again was like, ‘This is my turn. I get to win,’ ” Phair said. “It was cool to beat them in three.”
Phair helped the Chargers (36-8) sweep four of their five opponents during the program’s historic run in the state tournament.
Edison capped it off by beating Menlo-Atherton, 25-20, 25-21, 25-18, at Santiago Canyon College to win its first state crown. Phair, who is heading to UCLA to play women’s sand volleyball, led Edison with 13 kills in the finale.
For the season, Phair finished with 376 kills, 286 digs and 47 service aces, earning her All-CIF Southern Section Division 1, first-team All-Orange County and first-team All-Sunset League accolades.
“We always knew what we were going to get from Hannah. She gave 100% of herself every day,” Skolnik said. “Having someone as steady and reliable as Hannah helps to put the team at ease. It’s great to know that you always have someone to get you out of a jam.
“She showed a lot about her dedication to the team when she came to the Huntington Beach match. She was recovering from a concussion that she sustained in practice earlier that week and suffering from strep throat. She should have been at home in bed, but it was great to see her at the match supporting her team.”