REDLANDS — Corona del Mar High and Redlands East Valley usually meet for all the marbles on the court. They have played for a CIF Southern Section girls' volleyball championship the previous two seasons.
This time, the programs faced each other in a Division I-A semifinal match on Tuesday. Different round, yet same outcome.
The Sea Kings cannot seem to beat the Wildcats in the postseason. They avoided a sweep on the road, but seconded-seeded Redlands East Valley won, 25-20, 25-21, 26-28, 25-21, making it five straight playoff victories against third-seeded CdM.
Redlands East Valley (29-4) advances to its fourth straight section finale, while CdM (24-8) misses its third consecutive final appearance.
"Obviously, we're a little bit disappointed that we're not back in the finals," CdM Coach Darryl Gan said. "Again, you've got to hand it to [the Wildcats]. When they have their backs against the wall, they have a tendency to play harder."
Each set was highly contested, the difference was Redlands East Valley managed to come up big down the stretch.
The Wildcats have one of the better outside hitters in the nation in Krista Vansant. The University of Washington-bound senior amassed 39 kills and added 15 digs. She was nearly impossible to slow down.
Vansant said she and Redlands East Valley held another advantage over the Sea Kings before the match began.
"We tend to just get in their heads. I think it's a psychological thing," Vansant said. "We've beaten them four times, five times now. They just have it in the back of their heads, 'Oh, they've beaten us four times already.' "
The Sea Kings showed up to Redlands early, hoping to relax before making the 64-mile trip. They opened the first set behind and they were able to close the gap to 20-18.
Redlands East Valley scored the set's final five points, one on a service ace by Nicole Orban and the clincher was a shot by CdM's Morgan Boukather that went out of play.
"We're always off against them," said Boukather, who finished with a team-high 19 kills to go with four aces and two digs.
Outside hitter Hailey Senske finished with 12 kills and outside hitter Mary McKennon added 10 kills, while middle blocker Britton Taylor had seven kills for CdM. Setter Kelsey Humphreys collected 47 assists.
Boukather, who is bound for Stanford, said the team was depressed that it missed a shot to end a skid against Redlands East Valley in the playoffs. Beside the Wildcats' two victories against CdM in Division II-AA section title matches the last two years, Redlands East Valley knocked off the Sea Kings twice in the CIF State Division II Regional playoffs.
Gan said CdM will not get invited to the Division I state playoffs this year after losing out in the semis. The section finalists from Division I-AA and Division I-A will earn state playoff berths.
"It was something that we were looking forward to," Gan said. "I think this year was a good year for us."
The Sea Kings won the Battle of the Bay this year for the first time in six years, sweeping rival Newport Harbor before making a run in the playoffs.
The tables were almost turned on CdM in the semifinals.
Redlands East Valley was on the verge of winning in three sets. The Sea Kings had three set-point opportunities and came up short each time.
On the fourth set-point chance, one official appeared to help CdM out. He called a net violation on Redlands East Valley middle blocker Alyssa Mason, giving the Sea Kings a 28-26 victory in Game 3. The controversial call just fired up the Wildcats.
"We were kind of angry," Vansant said. "That kind of pushed us more in the fourth game."