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Corona del Mar girls’ volleyball wins five-set thriller at Los Alamitos

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Coach Sam Stafford talks with his Corona del Mar team during a timeout at Los Alamitos in a Surf League opener on Wednesday.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

The Corona del Mar High girls’ volleyball team began the defense of its Surf League crown on Wednesday night against an equally hot opponent.

A road match at Los Alamitos, the reigning CIF Southern Section Division 2 champion, represented the first league test for the Sea Kings this season.

The Sea Kings had played well of late, beginning by winning the Silver Bracket in the Dave Mohs Tournament. Last weekend, CdM finished second in the Tartar Classic in Torrance.

Los Alamitos had won six in a row coming into the league opener, including five-set victories over Lakewood and Cypress.

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Griffins coach Dave Huber described both five-set matches as “rollercoaster” affairs, and Wednesday’s contest carried a similar tune.

Junior outside hitter Molly Joyce had 25 kills, three service aces and two blocks to lead the Sea Kings to a 19-25, 25-20, 25-16, 23-25, 15-12 victory.

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Molly Joyce of Corona del Mar records a kill against Los Alamitos’ Cambria Grant, left, and Allie Livingston in a Surf League road match on Wednesday.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

Senior middle blocker Molly Boyle cashed in on an overpass for the match-clinching kill.

“Those matches are stressful during the match, but they’re pretty fun to be a part of,” Sea Kings coach Sam Stafford said of the five-set match. “That’s kind of why you coach is to go through those things. It’s always a little nicer when you can pull it out, but those matches are always fun.”

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CdM (11-3), ranked No. 14 in the section’s combined Division 1 and 2 poll, now has a 19-match winning streak in league play, dating back to its time in the Pacific Coast League.

“I think a lot of teams want to beat CdM because we’re CdM, and we’re new to the league,” Stafford said. “I know how good Los Al is, especially at home, coaching at Newport [Harbor] for so long and playing in this gym.

“I think we’re still learning what wins like this mean because I do have a little bit of a young group.”

Junior setter Bella Pouliot had 44 assists and one block. Senior outside hitter Nikki Senske added 19 kills and four aces, including three aces in the fifth set. Senior libero Michelle Won had 24 digs, freshman opposite Reese Olson had five aces, and sophomore middle blocker Macy Place had six kills.

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Corona del Mar’s Michelle Won digs a Los Alamitos serve in a Surf League opener on the road Wednesday.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

“I think we all did really well,” Joyce said. “In tight situations, sometimes we don’t perform, so it was really great to see, in the tight situations, everyone was really doing what they needed to be doing.”

Pouliot, who converted from libero to setter midway through her sophomore season, made a surprising contribution in the fifth set. She dumped the ball over the net to give CdM a 13-12 lead, which accounted for her only kill of the match.

“I think the middle was serving, and I saw that it was open, so I tried to go for it,” Pouliot said. “It went a little low, but I got lucky there.

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“I did get a little tape, and I think they might have blocked it if it didn’t hit the tape because they weren’t expecting it, which was the point, but it’s supposed to go a little farther over.”

The No. 10 Griffins (12-5) looked to go to their Utah-bound outside hitter in Abby Karich early and often. She had five kills and a block assist in Game 1.

CdM won the last five points of Game 2, including three aces by Joyce to even the match at a set apiece.

Joyce piled it on in Game 3, unleashing a nine-kill effort as the Sea Kings jumped into the lead.

The match had yet to see its last turn, as Karich pounded out eight kills in Game 4 to send the match to a fifth set.

Karich finished with 23 kills to lead Los Alamitos. Allie Livingston had 40 assists, and Riley Beyma and Jacinda Ramirez each had 19 digs. Kamryn Parsonage also had nine kills.

“We were flat-footed, and at the end of Game 4, we had a little more energy with the things that we were trying to do and stayed a little more aggressive with it,” Huber said. “The results kind of showed that, as well.”

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Corona del Mar’s Megan Fisk keeps the ball in play in a Surf League match at Los Alamitos on Wednesday.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

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