For once, the unpredictable Surf League finally seemed to follow the script on Tuesday night.
The Corona del Mar High girls’ volleyball team came into its match against Edison riding an 11-match winning streak. The Sea Kings also had the best weapon on the floor in Kendall Kipp, a senior outside hitter committed to Stanford.
Kipp had 20 kills, eight digs and two blocks, and the Sea Kings swept the visiting Chargers 25-20, 25-22, 25-13, clinching at least a share of the league title in the process.
“It’s pretty awesome to go start league 4-0, and we want to win the league outright,” Sea Kings coach Steve Astor said. “We don’t want to share a title. We want to try to find a way to beat Huntington [Beach] on Thursday and go for that title right away. It would be great.”
CdM’s winning streak stands at 12. The Sea Kings (21-11, 4-0 in league) have also won 16 consecutive league contests, dating to a Pacific Coast League match at Woodbridge on Oct. 18, 2016.
In a battle between the top teams in the Surf League through the first half of action, the Sea Kings and the Chargers (16-12, 2-2) played two close sets to begin Tuesday’s tilt.
Late in the first set, tough serving by Samantha Schofield narrowed CdM’s advantage to 20-18. Astor called a timeout, and Kipp took control thereafter. The 6-foot-5 outside hitter registered three kills and a block for CdM’s final four points of the first set.
“She’s just a really good player,” Chargers coach Matt Skolnik said of Kipp. “You can game plan all you want, but she’s as close to unstoppable as you can get. She has all the shots. She can hit down the line, she can hit angles. Then she throws in tip shots and goes over the block, so it’s difficult to game plan.”
In the second set, Kipp again proved to be the closer. Edison had cut its deficit to 22-21, but Kipp struck once more coming out of a timeout. She had back-to-back kills, and a hitting error gave the Sea Kings Game 2.
We don’t want to share a title. We want to try to find a way to beat Huntington [Beach] on Thursday and go for that title right away. It would be great.
Although CdM pulled out the first two sets, Schofield’s serving put the Sea Kings through some nervous moments.
“That serve was pretty nasty,” Astor said. “You just try to get in front of it and keep it on our side. It’s one of those serves that is that tough. We’re not trying to be perfect with it.
“Brey [Sands] did a great job of making adjustments, and those were some huge side outs in Game 1 and 2. It could have gone either way, but we stuck in there, and we’ve been pretty resilient during this past couple of weeks.”
As Schofield and the Chargers challenged CdM in serve receive, Sands and Michelle Won (12 digs) had the answers defensively.
“In my mind, before I pass, I just envision it being a perfect pass, and I just focus on the play at hand,” Sands said. “I don’t focus on the play before if I made a mistake.”
Bella Pouliot had 30 assists. Nikki Senske had nine kills, Karly Recker added four kills and four service aces, and Tatiana Bruening chipped in with 3½ blocks.
Schofield led the Chargers with seven kills and four aces. Aly Fullbright produced 19 assists, and Taylor Torchia and Nikki Logan each had five kills.
“Dig Pink” was the theme for the match, a show of support for breast cancer awareness. The Kings Krew, the CdM student section, turned out in force, all wearing pink shirts.
The new experience of the Surf League has also excited the Sea Kings.
“It’s insane,” Senske said. “It’s been so much fun to play harder teams, to really want to fight and win. Knowing that there is something on the line to lose, it’s been so much fun to play with my team.”
Although the new league has kept the pressure on from start to finish, Skolnik also shared in the enthusiasm.
“This is a really, really tough three weeks of matches,” Skolnik said. “You have four teams where there are no easy matches. You have to bring it for three weeks, where it’s kind of grueling, but it’s good, though.
“We’re playing some good volleyball. I think we’re in a tough league, and there are good teams all around.”