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Corona del Mar a Victory Away From Division III State Final

Corona del Mar is making the most of its second chance in the Division III state girls’ volleyball playoffs, and now the Sea Kings are one victory away from the state final.

Saturday, Corona del Mar posted a convincing second-round victory over second-seeded North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake, 15-8, 15-3, 15-7. It may have surprised some people, considering that Harvard-Westlake beat Corona del Mar in the Southern Section Division III-AA semifinals Nov. 16.

“The girls were real fired up Saturday,” Corona del Mar Coach Steve Conti said. “I don’t know if that was our best match, but it was pretty darn close. Especially to get a three-game sweep against a team that’s beaten us twice.”

Saturday, Corona del Mar middle blocker Megan Gallagher and outside hitter Marissa Becker stepped up after sub-par performances in the section semifinal loss to Harvard-Westlake, Conti said. Becker finished with six kills in 10 attempts with no hitting errors in Saturday’s three-game victory.

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“At times we’ve been getting a little too predictable,” Conti said. “We had a little more balance Saturday.”

It’s easy to see why sophomore setter Jacqueline Becker has been going to outside hitters Dimitra Havriluk and Jamie Brownell so often. Havriluk had 20 kills and Brownell had 13 on Saturday.

“Dimitra and Jamie have been pretty solid all year long,” Conti said.

Now Corona del Mar plays at 7 tonight against top-seeded Torrance Bishop Montgomery, which finished the regular season ranked seventh in the state overall poll. USC-bound Katie Olsovsky, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker, leads Bishop Montgomery.

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Bishop Montgomery defeated Corona del Mar in two games in the Dave Mohs Memorial tournament this season.

“Obviously, Katie is a big-time player,” Conti said. “But we can’t let ourselves get intimidated. We’re going to get blocked a few times, but we’ve got to come back and hit it hard and smart the next time.

“Katie’s a very good player, but no one person will win this match.”

FAMILIAR FOE

Central Section champion Fresno Bullard thrashed Santa Barbara San Marcos, the Southern Section Division I-A champion, 15-7, 15-10, 15-8, in the second round of the Division I state tournament Saturday to earn a rematch at Newport Harbor in the semifinals at 7 tonight.

On Oct. 30, Newport Harbor defeated Bullard in the semifinals of the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions in three tight games. The Sailors went on to defeat Mountain View St. Francis in the final, but Bullard was the one team Newport Harbor Coach Dan Glenn came home raving about.

“I’m not surprised at all to be playing them,” Glenn said. “They’re probably the most athletic team we’ve seen all year. Our kids know Bullard and they respect them.”

Bullard is led by 5-10 outside hitter Jessica Kinder and her twin sister Kristin, the starting setter. Both have committed to Notre Dame. Outside hitter Ashley Grooms, who has committed to Cincinnati, is another strong attacker.

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Newport Harbor is playing some of its best volleyball of the season, coming off a three-game victory over Mater Dei Saturday.

The Sailors’ passing and middle blockers Heather Cullen and Krista Dill will need to be sharp tonight to take the pressure off of USC-bound outside hitter April Ross.

AND THE REST . . .

In the Division IV semifinals, senior Kellie Cramm leads Laguna Beach into tonight’s rematch at top-seeded Los Angeles Notre Dame Academy. Laguna Beach lost to Notre Dame Academy, in five games, in the Southern Section Division IV-AA championship match Nov. 20.

In Division II, Lakewood St. Joseph, the Southern Section Division II-A champion, plays at Santa Margarita, the section Division II-AA champion. The Eagles, led by middle blocker Monique Gerlach, won the teams’ two Serra League matches this season.

St. Margaret’s hosts Visalia Central Valley Christian in a Division V semifinal tonight at 7. Allison Bendush will try to lead the Tartans to their first state championship match.

The state finals are Saturday at Cypress College.

If you have an item or idea for the girls’ volleyball report, you can fax us at (714) 966-5663 or e-mail us at mike.itagaki@latimes.com

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