Boukather leads Sea Kings

Morgan Boukather was so ready for the Battle of the Bay.

Corona del Mar High hadn't beaten Newport Harbor in the annual rivalry match since 2004, when the current seniors were still just sixth graders.

But the Sea Kings have a strong senior class this year. And Boukather wasn't going to let the pneumonia she'd been battling throughout the week get in the way of beating rival Newport Harbor.

She had 11 kills as CdM stunned the Sailors in three sets, 25-21, 25-23, 26-24 on Nov. 5.

Two days earlier, she hadn't practiced. The next day, Coach Darryl Gan said he gave Boukather plenty of rest during the team's Pacific Coast League finale against Beckman.

"I was just on medication, and [using] inhalers," Boukather said. "I got through it. I think I was just so pumped up on adrenaline."

The 6-foot-1 Stanford-bound senior opposite surprised nobody on the CdM side by gutting through the illness, although she said she started feeling it near the end of the match. Her scrappy play was just a microcosm of the team against Newport Harbor, as CdM rallied from an 18-12 deficit to claim the opening set and also played better at the end of the last two sets as well.

Boukather, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week, was elated. She's always been all about the team, and this year the Sea Kings feel like they can keep accomplishing big things in the postseason.

Ten seniors are on the roster. Six of them — Boukather, back-row specialist Catherine Sullivan, setter Megan Griffin, libero Katelyn Baker, middle blocker Claire Ham and outside hitter Hailey Senske — play huge roles on the court for the Sea Kings.

CdM faces Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga at 6 tonight at home, in a CIF Southern Section Division I-A quarterfinal match. Boukather, always smiling and usually laughing, is ready to keep playing.

"We're just excited that we're moved up a division for CIF," said Boukather of the Sea Kings, who advanced to the Division II-AA title match the past two years. "We have more competition."

Gan knows Boukather has always been a competitor, even if she describes herself as a late bloomer. He saw that she was ready to roll two summers ago, as she came back from her club season with TCA.

"She had matured, she'd gotten stronger, she had a lot more confidence," Gan said. "From summer camp on, we knew that she was going to be a pretty big factor for us."

Boukather led the team in kills last year, with 307. She leads CdM in kills again this year, although her season-high is just 18, a number she's gotten to three different times. The Sea Kings like to spread it around.

Boukather, it turns out, has also been spread around the court.

"I go wherever they put me," she said. "Last year in high school I played opposite, and then during club [season] I played outside. They started me at outside here [at CdM] this year, then they moved me back to opposite."

Gan appreciates her versatility. And even with her good-natured demeanor off the court, he also appreciates her intensity.

"She's a tough kid," he said. "When it's time for her to play, she's ready."

The Sea Kings hope they're ready for more volleyball. If they win tonight, the No. 3 seeds could be meeting a familiar opponent in the semifinals. That would be Redlands East Valley, which also moved up a division.

REV is the team that beat CdM in the Division II-AA final the last two years, as well as in the CIF State Division II playoffs.

REV's star player, Krista Vansant, also is now a senior.

"We need to get them back," Boukather said. "[Losing] two years in a row, in both CIF and state? That's not good. We need another opportunity."

If they get one, No. 20 will be a big reason why.


Morgan Boukather

Born: June 3, 1993

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 6-foot-1

Sport: Volleyball

Coach: Darryl Gan

Favorite food: Sushi

Favorite movie: "The Holiday"

Favorite athletic moment: "Winning the Battle of the Bay [last week]. That was amazing."

Week in review: Boukather had 11 kills and shook off pnemonia Nov. 5 to lead the Sea Kings to a sweep in the Battle of the Bay, CdM's first win in the series since 2004. She had 14 kills in a win over Beckman the day before as the Sea Kings finished off an undefeated Pacific Coast League season.

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