CORONA DEL MAR — A black stretch limousine pulled up to the Corona del Mar High campus. Members of the girls' volleyball team were running late to the football game on Friday night.
The Sea Kings had a good excuse for missing most of the football game. They just beat Newport Harbor on the court in the Battle of the Bay for the first time in six years.
The Sea Kings did not just defeat their Back Bay rivals. They swept them, 25-21, 25-23, 26-24.
The home fans stormed onto the court moments after middle blocker Britton Taylor clinched the match for CdM with an overpass kill. The Sea Kings rallied from a seven-point deficit in the third set to upset the defending CIF State Division I champions.
"It's unbelievable. We've been dreaming of this since last year," said CdM senior outside hitter Morgan Boukather, adding that the team's ultimate goal this year was to knock off the Sailors.
Finally, the Sea Kings pulled it off. CdM assistant coach Steve Conti said they accomplished the feat with Boukather battling pneumonia during the week and senior middle blocker Claire Ham a viral infection.
If you believe in signs, then it probably made sense that the Sea Kings prevailed in the Battle of the Bay on Nov. 5. On the same day six years ago, CdM won the rivalry match.
But this time in three sets? No one imagined it was possible, not against a Dan Glenn-coached team.
Glenn coached CdM Coach Darryl Gan's sister and two brothers, so he knows how tough it is to beat Newport Harbor, let alone sweep the Sailors in the biggest match in town.
The regular-season finale for both teams gives CdM (21-7) momentum heading into the CIF Southern Section Division I-A playoffs next week.
"I think that's what we need heading into CIF," said Gan, who in his third year in charge is hoping to guide the Sea Kings to a section championship match for the third straight season.
In the previous two final appearances, CdM has fallen each time to Redlands Easy Valley.
The road for Newport Harbor (20-12) to defend its Division I-AA crown will be much harder.
"It's hard to regroup," Glenn said after losing the Battle of the Bay. "I'm not going to sit there and say this wasn't an important [match]. This is a huge [match]. This is the city championship.
"I told [my players], 'We could have a chance to play these guys again. It would be in the state playoffs, because we're in different divisions [in the section playoffs and we cannot play the Sea Kings], but we would be in the same [division] for state. I have a feeling [the Sea Kings will] be there. We have a little tougher road than they do … but we can do it."
Newport Harbor and CdM learn of their respective first-round opponents on Sunday, when the section plans to release the seeds and pairings.
Gan expects the Pacific Coast League champions Sea Kings to earn a No. 3 seed, while Glenn said he would not be surprised if his team has to travel in the first round, despite the Sailors earning the Sunset League's No. 2 entry into the postseason and being ranked No. 4 in the Division I-AA coaches' poll.
The Battle of the Bay felt like a playoff match. It was intense at around 5:30 p.m., when the two teams were scheduled to play to give CdM's players and fans a chance to attend the school's football game against University at Newport Harbor High at 7.
Most of them never made it to the football game on time.
The match started an hour late, due to the frosh-soph and junior varsity contests between the two schools running a little behind. CdM's lower-level programs won their respective matches.
All the Sea Kings had to do next was claim the main event.
They got off to a rocky start, falling behind in the first set, 18-12. The Sea Kings stormed back, going on a 13-3 run to take the opening set.
Boukather, who is bound for Stanford, recorded four of her 11 kills during the spurt. She added a block, one of four in the match, and outside hitter Mary McKennon recorded back-to-back kills to clinch Game 1.
McKennon, who finished with a match-high 13 kills, helped close out the second and third sets for CdM by recording major kills.
Cinnamon Sary led the Sailors. The junior played multiple positions and finished with 17 assists, seven kills, four blocks and four digs. Newport Harbor just struggled down the stretch of sets.
"I don't know if it was us not finishing or Corona picking up [its] level of play," Glenn said.