The Corona del Mar High boys' volleyball team won the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship last year, and the Sea Kings returned plenty of firepower.
The pundits recognized this, and the section's first set of rankings reflected that by placing CdM atop the Division 1 poll.
A week later, CdM had already dropped to fifth, a result of suffering back-to-back losses to Cupertino Monta Vista and Manhattan Beach Mira Costa at the Best of the West Invitational in San Diego.
Rankings often are subject to change, especially with early-season losses, but the Sea Kings did their best to silence any alarm bells on Tuesday night.
Brandon Browning and Kevin Kobrine each had 10 kills, and the host Sea Kings swept Laguna Beach 25-19, 25-21, 25-20 in a nonleague match.
During CdM's title run the season before, the Breakers put up the best fight, taking the Sea Kings to five sets in the Division 1 quarterfinals.
After Tuesday's bounce-back performance, the Sea Kings (6-2) expressed confidence that they would round into form through practice reps.
"We have to just keep working hard in the gym because that's ultimately what is going to keep making us better," Browning said. "We can only play so many games, but practice is what is going to really make us better."
Browning had plenty of opportunity to get swings in during the offseason, as he competed with Team USA in the FIVB Volleyball Boys' U19 World Championships in Bahrain last summer.
CdM's size stands out on the volleyball court. Browning, an outside hitter bound for USC, and Kobrine, an opposite bound for UCLA, are both 6 feet 4. Senior middle blocker Tyler Flood is 6 feet 6.
Good ball control allowed the Sea Kings to attack close to the net. The swings of CdM's front row were hard to stop. The hitters got on top of the ball, sending it screaming downward into the hardwood.
"I think one of our best assets is that we're so big and athletic," Kobrine said. "A lot of teams don't have [our height]. We're a big, athletic team, and we use that to our advantage."
Senior setter Diego Perez had 31 assists for the Sea Kings. Flood had eight kills and three total blocks, and Kobrine added four service aces.
CdM had just nine hitting errors over three sets, but both teams had their issues at the service line. The Sea Kings and the Breakers each missed 13 serves.
"A lot of these guys watch the college game," Sea Kings coach Steve Conti said. "At that level, they go back there and there are so many missed serves. You've got to be so aggressive in the college game at the service line because if you're not, the ball control is so good, and they're so powerful offensively.
"In high school, teams make mistakes."
Laguna Beach's attack was led by UCLA signee Samuel Burgi, who had 12 kills. Senior outside hitter Joshua McManus had seven kills, and sophomore opposite Geste Bianchi added five kills.
Junior libero Enzo Sadler led the Breakers (4-5) defensively with 14 digs.
After facing elite opponents in top-ranked Newport Harbor and CdM over the past week, Breakers coach Doug Mauro explained the benefit that his team gets from playing in those matches.
"These games are important for us to get film of us playing them," he said.
Mauro added a critique of his team's play, saying, "We need to work on our setting. We need to be a little more precise."
CdM will compete in the Orange County Championships. The tournament, which Edison runs, will begin on Friday and Saturday, with the final being played on Monday.