Sea Kings finish strong

CORONA DEL MAR — The referee on the floor said he knew who was going to win the Corona del Mar-Laguna Beach high school rivalry match.

Before the girls' volleyball match went to a decisive fifth set, the referee said the side that received at the start went on to win the first four sets.

He did not understand why CdM chose to serve in the final set. He forgot about the Sea Kings' home-court edge Tuesday night.

After losing the previous set pretty badly, the Sea Kings forgot all about it and regrouped. They jumped to an early lead and Hailey Senske helped close things out.

Senske recorded her team-high 14th kill, leading CdM to a 25-17, 18-25, 25-21, 11-25, 15-13 victory.

"It was the best," Senske said how she felt afterward. "It was a nice sense of redemption."

The Sea Kings (7-3), ranked fifth in the CIF Southern Section Division I-A coaches' poll, avenged an earlier loss to No. 2 Laguna Beach (5-3).

The two programs met at the Queens Court Tournament, where the Breakers swept in a best-of-three format. The latest match went the distance.

CdM Coach Darryl Gan expected a battle before the Sea Kings travel to Chicago Thursday for the Mother McAuley ASICS Challenge. The Breakers gave CdM a challenge before the Sea Kings compete against the nation's premier programs at the two-day event, which begins Friday.

"Typical CdM-Laguna Beach high school … match," said Gan, whose Sea Kings last season dropped the match to the Breakers, giving Laguna Beach Coach Lance Stewart his first win against his former school since 2007.

Stewart guided the Sea Kings from 1992-95, winning section and national titles. Gan has a lot of respect for Stewart, whom he has known for years.

While Gan is more reserved, Stewart is fiery on the sideline. He stands during matches, praising and criticizing his Breakers.

Stewart had many nice things to say when Laguna Beach opened the fourth set on a 7-1 run. Outside hitter Chanel Stewart lit up the Sea Kings with four kills during the spurt.

The senior outside hitter kept pounding away. When the set looked out of reach for CdM, Gan pulled his top hitters, Morgan Boukather and Senske. The two seniors sat on the bench, watching Laguna Beach pull away.

"In the huddle, [Gan] just said, 'We just need to stay positive. We need to keep the momentum up and we can't just get down on ourselves,' " Senske said.

The pep talk and rest helped Senske and the Stanford-bound Boukather in the fifth game.

Boukather had one of her 11 kills and Senske hammered a shot, giving the Sea Kings a 3-1 advantage. The Breakers rallied to tie it, only to see CdM's Claire Ham block back-to-back shots to put CdM ahead and give the Auburn-bound senior seven blocks.

Megan Griffin's service ace increased the Sea Kings' lead to 6-3. Laguna Beach got within one after Stewart got going again late. Stewart recorded two straight kills, cutting the deficit to 13-12.

The lead remained one, with Laguna Beach serving.

When Senske got her shot on match point, she elevated and put one down to secure a big win before the Mother McAuley ASICS Challenge.

"I think this [match] kind of demonstrated that if we really want something then we can be successful," Senske said. "We were able to come back after losing pretty badly in the fourth game. I think that is a good sign going into Chicago this weekend."

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