SANTA ANA — After watching his Corona del Mar High girls' volleyball team drop the first set, Coach Darryl Gan spoke up.
He saw that the momentum at the start of the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division I-A playoffs belonged to host Foothill.
"I just told them, 'Let's not try to win the match in one game, or on one swing or on one serve,'" said Gan, whose Sea Kings were in for a battle on Thursday night. "I told them just to relax. It's a three-out-of-five game match. It's not two out of three. We have plenty of time."
The third-seeded Sea Kings responded and avoided the upset. CdM listened to Gan and began playing its game, beating the Knights, 23-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-10, to advance to the quarterfinals.
The Sea Kings (23-7) on Saturday play host to Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga. Los Osos (28-4) is the Baseline League champ.
For the second time in three days, CdM looked beatable. Foothill (16-12) was three points away from taking a 2-0 set lead on the Pacific Coast League champion Sea Kings.
The key to the Knights' success was easy for Coach Brie Crosby.
"That was the best we ever played as a team," Crosby said.
Gan cannot say the same for CdM, which is trying to find its rhythm from last week's sweep of Newport Harbor in the Battle of the Bay.
Gan let his players work out of their funk in the second set. The set featured 12 ties, the last at 20-20.
At no point was Gan worried about the outcome.
"All of a sudden they'll start pulling together, looking a little more confident," Gan said. "I'll know that they're there. That's why I didn't really panic too much and call that first timeout early."
The usual Sea Kings' contributors, outside hitter Hailey Senske, middle blocker Britton Taylor and outside hitters Morgan Boukather and Mary McKennon, recorded kills down the stretch of Game 2.
At game point, Boukather stuffed Foothill outside hitter Katy Woodward's shot. The block was Boukather's only one in the match.
The Stanford-bound senior finished with a match-high 18 kills, five service aces and four digs.
Woodward led the Knights with 10 kills.
In Game 3, CdM broke it open after getting behind, 14-12. The Sea Kings went on an 11-2 run and never looked back. McKennon served 10 straight times, dropping two aces during the surge. McKennon added 12 kills and four digs.
Taylor had 13 kills for the Sea Kings, who performed at their best in the fourth set. They closed things out early, jumping ahead, 17-6, before Crosby called a timeout. She figured the Knights' were not about to play their second straight five-set match in the postseason.
"They just took off," she said.
Gan is hoping CdM continues its run at a third straight section title appearance.