Check This Out: Corona del Mar Is Crawling With Success

If you pay attention to the international sports scene, you probably know about the controversy surrounding the women’s distance runners of China. The Chinese have been setting world records as effortlessly as most of us set dinner tables. Some contend the Chinese are using performance-enhancing drugs. The Chinese deny this, saying their progress is based, at least in part, on a potion made from caterpillar fungus.

Which is why I had to stop in my tracks just outside the Corona del Mar High School gymnasium Monday afternoon.

There, just yards away from where the Sea King girls’ volleyball team was about to start afternoon practice, was a small, green caterpillar.

OK, it could have been a coincidence. But think about it. Corona del Mar--the top-ranked volleyball team in the nation--in the very same vicinity as this newly discovered Wonder Bug? Tell me there isn’t a connection there.


For years, we have been told that Corona del Mar’s success is based on hard work, eons of tradition and a seemingly never-ending supply of talent, most of which is developed at the club level from the embryo stage on.

This, we’re told, is why Corona del Mar finished 34-0 last year. This is why the 1992 Sea Kings won Orange County, Southern Section and State titles and finished as Volleyball Monthly magazine’s co-national champion (along with Burris High of Muncie, Ind.). This is why, with four starters returning, you’ll find CdM at the No. 1 position in preseason national rankings for 1993.

But maybe there was more to it than that. Caterpillar quiche, perhaps?

Lance Stewart, the team’s second-year coach, isn’t saying. He’s too busy being nonchalant. Before his team’s practice Monday afternoon, Stewart sat on the white leather couch in the Sea King coaches’ office, shrugging at questions about pressure and expectations all the while crushing the can of Dr Pepper in his hand.

Certainly, coming off a 34-0 season has its down side, and Stewart knows it. He says he expects to win every match this year, but he won’t be surprised if that doesn’t happen. Every team wants to be able to say they knocked off the defending national champions. Every opposing player wants to slam down the winning kill to beat Corona del Mar.

Stewart believes his players are ready for the challenge. Along with being terrific volleyball players, they’re a super mature bunch.

“It’s going to be interesting if, in fact, we do lose,” Stewart says. “It’ll be interesting to see their reaction. But I think we’re stable enough and humble enough to deal with it in a positive way.”

His players agree. Sure, they want to win Saturday’s Orange County Championships, just as they want to win another section and State title. But they try not to let the pressure get to them. Last year was special, they say, but last year is long gone. It’s time for the season of 1993.


“At first we were kind of scared to play (Newport) Harbor and start the season and everything,” captain Kristen Campbell says. “But I think people are ready to play.”

Stewart hopes it will be at a new level. He isn’t so sure Corona del Mar ever reached its peak last year, he says. He saw the flicker of greatness here and there, but he isn’t convinced they can’t play better. That’s why he’s having some of them hit the books.

Not volleyball books, mind you, but the kind of books you find stacked up on executives’ desks: “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” “Principle-Centered Leadership,” “All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten.” Fun reading like that. Stewart, who has a library full of such material, hopes it will help his players develop better means of leadership.

Campbell, the school’s student-body president, is one of the lucky ones who gets to breeze through Stephen R. Covey’s “Principle-Centered Leadership,” a 326-page guide to managing relationships in business and life. Sample chapters: “Advantages of the PS Paradigm,” “Six Conditions of Empowerment,” and “Thirty Methods of Influence.”


Not exactly the kind of reading material a 17-year-old kid craves.

“I’ve barely opened it, I’ve been so busy with school and volleyball,” Campbell says. “My dad reads stuff like that . . . I guess I’ll approach it with an open mind.”

Just like you would with caterpillar quiche.