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CdM girls’ volleyball falters late at Trabuco Hills in five-set loss

During the second half of the regular season, the Corona del Mar High girls’ volleyball team looked dominant.

The No. 2-seeded Sea Kings headed into the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs on a 15-match winning streak, but things immediately got tougher for CdM in the postseason.

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After receiving a first-round bye, CdM went to a fifth set for a second straight match, and this time, the Sea Kings could not close out their opponent.

Kendall Anselmo had a team-high 17 kills for Trabuco Hills, which defeated the visiting Sea Kings 25-16, 18-25, 19-25, 25-20, 15-9 in a quarterfinal match on Wednesday night.

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Trabuco Hills (24-11) will host San Clemente (29-7) in the semifinals on Saturday. The host Tritons swept Dana Hills 30-28, 25-16, 25-15 in the quarterfinals.

CdM (25-12) held a 6-2 lead in the final set, but the Mustangs went on a six-point run behind the serve of Makenna Martin to take an 8-6 advantage.

Trabuco Hills continued to ride the wave of momentum, which only got bigger with the crowd showing its support for the Mustangs.

“Everyone got really loud,” Mustangs middle blocker Kiana Stradford said. “Everyone got really excited. The student section was going crazy, jumping up and down. It was really good.”

After the student section poured out onto the court to celebrate the Mustangs’ victory, Anselmo called the match “the best game yet.”

Jenna Walsh had 15 kills and three service aces for the Mustangs. Martin added 10 kills, and Stradford had nine kills and two blocks.

The Sea Kings looked out of system for the entire first set, but they settled into the match. Taylor Murphy made a solid showing in her first playoff start at libero.

“I was pretty nervous going into the first set, but then I realized that it was just another volleyball game,” Murphy said. “I just needed to play my game and do what I’ve been doing in practice, keep working super hard.

“We started getting the hang of it the second and third [sets], and we were playing together more. We were on the same page.”

Murphy had 23 digs, which Sea Kings coach Steve Astor said amounted to a team-high for one player this season.

Stanford-bound outside hitter Kendall Kipp had a match-high 26 kills for CdM. Nikki Senske added 10 kills, Karly Recker had seven kills, and Bella Pouliot finished with 40 assists.

Astor noted that the Sea Kings’ shortcomings were in blocking. In the fourth set, CdM hit .480 as a team, but Trabuco Hills extended the match to a decisive fifth set without much trouble.

“They played way better defense,” Astor said. “It was just that simple. As a team, we hit .480 in set four. You should never lose hitting .480, but the problem was that they were probably hitting .500 or .600. Defensively, it wasn’t even close tonight. Their block was a lot better than ours. That was our major weakness tonight without question. Our block killed us.

“We did everything else to try to win, but one skill we did really bad in tonight was block.”

Astor added that he expects that the Sea Kings will receive a berth into the CIF State Southern California Regional Division II tournament.

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