Less than two weeks ago, Corona del Mar High senior outside hitter Kendall Kipp revealed that the Battle of the Bay ranked among her favorite athletic moments.
That may be the case for many of those who have been part of the Back Bay rivalry, with the energy that a packed gym can bring and the closeness of the community.
Not to mention the quality of the volleyball. The last time that CdM and Newport Harbor met on the same court, the Sea Kings’ boys’ volleyball team had swept the Sailors for the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I championship.
Another big crowd made its way into CdM’s gym on Thursday night, ready to see a pair of league champions battle in the regular-season finale.
The Surf League champion Sea Kings jumped on the Wave League champion Sailors early, and host CdM swept 25-6, 25-15, 25-19 to extend its winning streak to 15 matches.
Kipp had 14 kills to lead the Sea Kings, who improved to 24-11 overall.
“It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the crowd and the whole Battle of the Bay environment, but we did a really good job of just staying focused and treating it like any other game,” Kipp said. “I think that made all the difference.”
Senior middle blocker Karly Recker could attest to the impact that the environment of the rivalry can have. She recalled being pulled out of her first Battle of the Bay during her sophomore year after a couple of early mishits.
“I used to think of it as a game that was different than all of the rest, and now, once you’re on the court and you’re playing a game, you’re just playing regular volleyball,” Recker added. “You have to think of it that way because otherwise, you’re going to end up losing.
“The crowd is a huge part of it. Under pressure, a lot of people get super nervous. I used to get super nervous.”
Nerves did not appear to be an issue for the Sea Kings this time. Nikki Senske had 12 kills on .579 hitting. Molly Joyce added six kills and 2½ blocks, and Tatiana Bruening had three blocks. Bella Pouliot spread the ball around, finishing the night with 30 assists and 1½ blocks.
The Sea Kings’ prolonged winning streak has vaulted them into the No. 16 spot in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2 poll, just inside the cutline for the Division 1 bracket. The section will release the playoff brackets at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“I could see us being in either [division],” Sea Kings coach Steve Astor said. “We don’t really care about it. Whatever division we’re in, we’re going to play hard.
“We wanted to focus on Los [Alamitos] and Newport, and it’s out of our hands.”
Recker commented on the winning streak, saying, “It was a big surprise to us. I think we thought that we were going to lose a couple and win a few [in the Surf League]. Going undefeated is huge for us. Going into CIF, it’s going to give us huge momentum.”
Ava Gonzalez led Newport Harbor’s hitters in the Battle of the Bay with seven kills. Siena Springborn had six kills, and Jasmine Amirie handed out 20 assists.
Newport Harbor (10-20) went through a scare on Tuesday. The Sailors faced five match points at home against Fountain Valley, but they ultimately prevailed to share the Wave League championship with Laguna Beach.
Due to the fact that Newport Harbor (Division 2) and Laguna Beach (Division 3) reside in different divisions, each will go in as a No. 1 seed from the Wave League. They should both receive a home match in the first round as a result.