Steve Astor's return to Newport Harbor High went a tad longer than expected.
Astor used to coach the Sailors, but on Saturday, he came with his new volleyball team, Corona del Mar.
He's used to the environment during the Battle of the Bay whenever the rivalry match is played at Newport Harbor. The gym tends to get hot.
The Sea Kings started on fire, taking the first two sets, but it was Astor's former school that almost came back to upset the No. 4-ranked girls' team in the CIF Southern Section Division 1-AA poll.
Corona del Mar held off the scrappy Sailors, 25-18, 25-22, 23-25, 22-25, 18-16, and claimed the Battle of the Bay for the fourth straight year.
When it ended, Astor watched his girls celebrate on the court he led the Newport Harbor boys for two seasons. He went across the bay in May, taking over at CdM.
"It's just a special match," Astor said of the Battle of the Bay. "I'm lucky to be a part of a match like this.
"It was a long grueling match in a hot gym, in a really tough place to play, and we showed a lot of character tonight by coming back, especially in Game 5, we're down, 4-1. We just kind of gutted it out."
The Sea Kings (7-2) barely hung on at the end against a program that is struggling.
The Sailors (3-12) are off to their worst start under Dan Glenn, who began coaching the girls in 1986. He's the first to tell you when it comes to this Back Bay rivalry, throw out the records.
Glenn was right. The Battle of the Bay turned into an epic match.
After winning the third and fourth sets, Newport Harbor forced a decisive fifth set. The Sailors appeared on their way to taking the final set, going ahead, 4-1, with one of Gabby Shelley's 17 kills and a block by Carolyn Bockrath and Remy Wilson.
Hayley Hodson brought the Sea Kings back. The standout junior outside hitter hammered seven of her 25 kills in the fifth set. Her fourth kill in the set gave CdM an 8-7 lead, its first in the fifth set.
The rest of the way, the teams went back and forth, as CdM's biggest lead was two points and Newport Harbor's was one.
Bockrath put Newport Harbor at match point with her 20th kill on the evening. The Sailors couldn't close the deal, and neither could the Sea Kings.
The Sea Kings had match point twice, but a hitting error and Wilson's 10th kill allowed Newport Harbor to tie the fifth set each time. On CdM's third match point opportunity, set up by a Hodson kill, the team finished off the Sailors.
Payton Carter clinched it with her service ace. The Carter family sure knows how beat Newport Harbor in sports this year.
Carter's older brother, Harrison, a junior defensive end, helped the Sea Kings knock off Newport Harbor, 34-14, in the Battle of the Bay football game on Sept. 20.
Astor is happy Payton Carter, a libero, plays for his volleyball team.
He's going to need her and the rest of the Sea Kings to step up as Hodson will leave CdM and join Team USA at the FIVB Women's U-23 Volleyball World Championships in Mexico Oct. 5-12. Astor said Hodson should rejoin the Sea Kings during the third week in October.
Jules Pouch had 10 kills and Jessie Harris had nine kills and 22 assists for CdM.
"It was a fun, great, athletic high school match, incredible digs on both sides," said Glenn, whose sophomore setter, Ellie Hagadorn, finished with 58 assists. "Hayley was bringing it. We maybe slowed her down a little bit at the end, but I don't think you stop someone like that. Kind of our goal was to win that last set when she was in the back row. She made it back around to the front row and that was a tough spot for us to be in.
"On the positive, that's the best we've played all year. I told the girls, 'I think we're getting better.'"