Shawn Patchell is back coaching at Laguna Beach High, and right away, the girls’ volleyball program is back to winning big-time matches.
The young Breakers opened the season on Wednesday with a 25-23, 26-24, 25-22 upset of rival Corona del Mar, beating the visiting Sea Kings for the first time in eight years.
Lexi McKeown, a senior bound for Florida State, led the way to ending CdM’s seven-match winning streak against the Breakers. The outside hitter finished with 12 kills, while Piper Naess added 10 and Cambria Hall six. Hallie Carballo had 19 digs.
On a team with seven sophomores and one freshman, Patchell said McKeown has a calming effect on the inexperienced players. One of those youngsters is Patchell’s daughter, Soren, a sophomore setter and opposite.
Soren is also a reason why Patchell returned to Laguna Beach, where he had coached the girls for four years, from 1998 to 2001. He led the girls to the CIF Southern Section finals twice.
“I live here and my parents taught me to give back to the community,” said Patchell, who is also the Concordia University men’s volleyball coach in Irvine. “It’s a chance to be involved with the kids, with my daughter’s friends. [Laguna Beach is] a wonderful place to be. They were the Artists the last time I was here, and now they’re Breakers again.”
The mascot has changed and so has the play of Laguna Beach.
Sea Kings coach Steve Astor noticed a difference in Laguna Beach. Two coaches guided the Breakers, Carson Tanner and Matt Malone, last year.
“They’re a lot better than they were last year, in every aspect,” Astor said.
“I don’t really care how good we are in September. But Laguna just kind of crushed us in the serve and pass battle tonight.”
The Breakers took control at the start, scoring seven of the first nine points in the nonleague match. The Sea Kings were the team that had played two matches, but they looked out of sorts, committing three violations early on in the opening set.
The Sea Kings (1-2) managed to get back in Game 1, tying it at 20-20. Then McKeown, Naess and Patchell turned it on late with kills. McKeown had the clincher.
“I thought we served and passed well,” Patchell said. “If they’re in system, I think they have their way with us, but we got them out of system. We want to serve and dig the ball, and that’s what we do well.
“Like I told [Astor], ‘I’m glad I got you early in the season, than later.’ Who knows? We might be able to play again this weekend, too.”
The Breakers and Sea Kings are competing in the three-day Dave Mohs Memorial Tournament, which starts Friday.
There are 24 teams in Division 1, and CdM is the top seed in Pool 7, and Laguna Beach is the third seed in Pool 1. Other locals in the top division are host Edison, Newport Harbor, Huntington Beach and Sage Hill.
On the first day, CdM opens with El Dorado at home at 3:30 p.m. and Laguna Beach plays Lakewood at Edison High.
“I’m happy that we get to play again in two days because I want to see if we can change a few things in practice,” said Astor, who saw Christina Davenport finish with 10 kills, Kendall Kipp with nine kills and Ashley Humphreys with 26 assists and five kills. “We’re not going to change a lot, but see how we kind of bounce back from that match. As usual, [Dave Mohs is] a very tough tournament, playing the best teams in [Orange County and out of county this year. We’ll be tested throughout. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can respond.”