CdM regains form

CORONA DEL MAR — The last time the Corona del Mar High girls' volleyball team stepped on the court, Hailey Senske battled strep throat and Claire Ham sat on the bench with knee issues.

The Sea Kings went into their season opener last Thursday ranked as the top team in Orange County. They definitely did not feel like No. 1 after losing in three sets at Mater Dei.

"It was hard, especially because the atmosphere over there was really intense," Senske said. "They had a lot of fans and a lot of school spirit. We were all kind of shell-shocked I think a little bit because it was our first [match]. I was sick and then Claire was hurt. We had some adversity to overcome."

In the second match of the season, the Sea Kings came around and showed they are still one of the elite teams.

Senske said she felt healthy before CdM played host to Huntington Beach Wednesday. Ham's knees held up in her first competitive match in two months.

Senske finished with nine kills and Ham added three kills as the Sea Kings went on to sweep the Oilers, 25-16, 25-18, 25-21, in a nonleague match.

"It's good to come here on our home court with Claire back and I'm back," said Senske, an outside hitter.

The Sea Kings looked like their normal selves.

Ham still must wrap her knees while she plays and ice them afterward. The Auburn-bound middle blocker was just happy to be back and not feel any pain in her knees every time she jumped.

The CIF Southern Section Division II-AA finalist the past two seasons played with more confidence. CdM faced last season's Division I-A finalist in Huntington Beach.

Each program has moved up in division. CdM is No. 3 in the Division I-A coaches' poll, while Huntington Beach is on the bubble in the Division I-AA poll.

Huntington Beach Coach Craig Pazanti said the Sea Kings benefitted from already having played a match. The Oilers' start to the season began slow, falling behind in the opening game.

Megan Griffin served strong, allowing the Sea Kings to jump out to a 4-0 lead. They never looked back.

When Huntington Beach cut the deficit to 15-13 in the first set, CdM ran away. Morgan Boukather helped the Sea Kings go on a 10-3 run by blocking a shot, one of five blocks the Penn State-bound outside hitter recorded.

Griffin, the setter, got everyone involved during the spurt. Mary McKennon and Britton Taylor each hammered shots. Senske and Boukather closed out the set with back-to-back kills.

McKennon finished with eight kills and Boukather had seven kills.

CdM Coach Darryl Gan was pleased with the effort, especially with the Sea Kings headed into the Dave Mohs Tournament on Friday. Edison and Fountain Valley are playing host to the event.

"Against a great team that has an amazing coaching staff, we served well and passed well," said Gan, referring to Pazanti, who guided Mater Dei to three section crowns from 1999 to 2004 before returning to his alma mater Huntington Beach, where he's in his third year.

"As long as we can run the middle and stay in our system, we're pretty hard to beat."

Gan is looking forward to seeing how his Sea Kings compete against the premier teams in the county at the three-day Dave Mohs Tournament.

CdM reached the final last season before losing to Los Alamitos. Mater Dei will be at the tournament and Gan wants another shot at the Monarchs, ranked sixth in Division I-AA.

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