Tuesday marked the first day the Corona del Mar High girls' volleyball team practiced inside the gym since it received a paint job.
One player missing was Alexis Cage, the daughter of former NBA player Michael Cage.
The Sea Kings will be without Alexis, a 6-foot-3 incoming junior, who has already committed to play for the University of Washington, said CdM Coach Marissa Booker. The loss of Alexis is big one at CdM, which enters this year with a new coach and high expectations.
The Sea Kings are No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division I-A preseason coaches' poll.
"She's choosing not to play this year," said Booker, unsure whether Alexis will attend CdM this school year.
"It was just kind of the best thing for her [to focus on her academics]."
Michael said his 16-year-old daughter's decision was a hard one for her to make.
"She's really going to miss playing high school volleyball," said Michael, adding that Alexis might attend Monte Vista, an alternative high school in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. "She decided to focus more on her academics and pass on playing high school volleyball as she already has a scholarship offer.
"She wants to focus on getting better, train with her [TStreet Volleyball Club of Irvine], and finish her beach season. She understands that overtraining can be very dangerous."
Michael praised Booker for supporting Alexis' decision.
Without Alexis at outside hitter, Booker believes CdM can still make a run at a section title.
Booker, who came over from Vanguard University, where she coached the women's team the past three years, has talent at CdM. The Sea Kings have a standout freshman in 6-1 Hayley Hodson and senior middle blocker Britton Taylor is one of a handful of returning players.
"If we take care of what we're supposed to take care of," Booker said, "we're putting ourselves in a great position to be a contender."
Booker, in her first stint as a high school varsity head coach, will try to do what the last person in charge, Darryl Gan, could not: guide CdM to a section crown.
— David Carrillo Peñaloza