It was a prelude to the start of the new season, but the Queens Court Tournament in Anaheim the final weekend in August gave Lance Stewart a glimpse of what he can expect from his 2010 Breakers.
Laguna played eight matches in two days and finished second in the Division 1 bracket of the massive girls' volleyball tournament. The Breakers beat some stalwart teams and reached the final, only to fall in three tight games to Edison.
"We did really well at the Queens tournament," said Stewart, who is beginning his 10th overall season as head coach of the program. "We beat Corona del Mar handily, beat Redlands East Valley, which has won the 2-AA title the past two years and now is preseason No. 1 this year in our division, and played Edison (No. 4 Division 1-AA) to the wire.
"It was an awesome tournament and there was some great competition. I thought the girls handled themselves very well in the tournament."
The tournament results don't count toward Laguna's overall season record. The Breakers officially open the regular season Tuesday with a 5 p.m. nonleague match against Newport Harbor.
Stewart has a slew of returning players from last year's Orange Coast League championship team, one that reached the semifinal round of the CIF playoffs for a sixth consecutive year. Among his returners are four starters from last year: senior outside hitter Chanel Stewart, senior right side/middle blocker Mackenzie Hester, junior right side/middle blocker Caroline Holte and junior setter Allison Palmer.
Stewart, Holte and Palmer were first-team all-league last year and Hester a second-team selection.
Also returning with varsity experience are junior outside hitter Marina Paul and senior back row/middle blocker Lauren Capobianco, plus junior setter Rachele Killian and junior outside hitter Avery Bush.
Varsity newcomers are sophomore setter Sevana Dvorak — niece of former Laguna Beach High great and U.S. gold-medal Olympian volleyball legend Dusty Dvorak — sophomore right side Alex Murphy, sophomore middle blocker Julia Goggin, sophomore outside hitter Marissa Greenough, junior libero Kalysta White and junior libero Ansley Unterberger.
"I think this team has the potential to have a great year," Lance Stewart said. "For the first time in a long time, though, we have no dominant left-side hitter. I like our outside hitters, but for the last six years, we've had players like Dana (Hutchinson), Piper (Obradovich) and Paulette (Grand Pre) who were pretty dynamic athletes for us.
"In order for us to be successful, we will really need to serve tough, as we now do, and play really good defense. We need to play as six to get the job done, rather than count on one player to really come through on the court."
The season gets underway with a bang Tuesday at Dugger Gym. The opener pits a Laguna team that is a preseason No. 2 in Division 1-A against a Newport Harbor team that is a preseason No. 2 in Division 1-AA. The Breakers hardly shy away from playing tough competition. Following Tuesday's match with the Sailors, they'll compete in the Dave Mohs Tournament at Edison, host Torrey Pines on Sept. 21 and travel Sept. 28 to face Corona del Mar, which is a preseason No. 3 in Division 1-A. They also have an Oct. 26 nonleague date at Mira Costa, which is a preseason No. 3 in Div. 1-AA.
"Our schedule is loaded," Stewart said. "That's what we do every year. Even though we are the smallest public school in Orange County, we want to play the biggest and best schools around. We want to be the top volleyball program around and if you want to be the best, you have to play the best."
The Breakers begin defense of their stranglehold on the Orange Coast League title Oct. 5 at Estancia.
Tuesday: vs. Newport Harbor, 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 17-20: at Dave Mohs Tournament (Edison High), TBA
Sept. 21: vs. Torrey Pines, 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 28: at Corona del Mar, 5 p.m.
Oct. 5: at *Estancia, 5:45 p.m.
Oct. 7: vs. *Calvary Chapel, 5:45 p.m.
Oct. 9: at Steve Lewis Festival, TBA
Oct. 12: vs. *Godinez, 5:45 p.m.
Oct. 14: at *Costa Mesa, 5:45 p.m.
Oct. 15-16: California Challenge (at Torrey Pines), TBA
Oct. 19: vs. *Saddleback, 5:45 p.m.
Oct. 21: vs. *Estancia, 5:45 p.m.
Oct. 26: at Mira Costa, 6 p.m.
Oct. 27: at *Calvary Chapel, 5:45 p.m.
Oct. 29: at *Godinez, 5:45 p.m.
Nov. 1: vs. *Costa Mesa, 5:45 p.m.
Nov. 3: at *Saddleback, 5:45 p.m.
Nov. 8: CIF playoffs begin