CdM opens with sweep

CORONA DEL MAR — Inside the Corona del Mar High gym, everything seemed to be fresh. New paint, new projection screens, new coach, even a new ceiling.

One thing that is the same at the school is the ceiling is high when it comes to the girls' volleyball program.

CdM expects to win and it got off to the right start in Marissa Booker's debut as coach on Tuesday.

One day after the Labor Day weekend, CdM didn't have to work much to get past Palos Verdes. Yes, it was hot inside the gym, but Booker's Sea Kings swept, 25-22, 25-18, 25-16.

All that was missing was the new electronic scoreboards to tell everyone the score during every set. Players, coaches and fans had to look at a manual scoreboard on the scorer's table to keep track.

Athletic Director Don Grable joked that an old-school scoreboard was used because CdM is celebrating its 50th year in 2012. The scorekeeper kept flipping the numbers in CdM's favor and that is all that mattered.

There is still a lot of time to install the new electronic scoreboards at CdM, which ranks No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division I-A preseason poll.

"Hopefully eventually," said Booker, who was more concerned about working out the team's kinks.

At one point, her team trailed 17-12. She called her first timeout and addressed her players.

"They know that that wasn't our level of play that we should be playing at and to get it together quite quickly," Booker said.

The players responded to Booker, the former Vanguard University women's volleyball coach, who's in her first high school head coaching stint on varsity.

The seniors in the middle, Chrissy Watson and Britton Taylor, played big and a freshman outside hitter, Hayley Hodson, played like a veteran.

Watson started a run with a kill and Hodson hammered away late.

Hodson gave CdM a 20-19 lead and then Taylor tied the match at 22-22 with a block. CdM scored the set's final three points to gain the momentum heading into the second set.

The hosts got a huge break early in the following set. Palos Verdes' setter, Kelly Johnson, went down near the net.

In pain, the Yale-bound senior held her right ankle. She left the court and CdM took off when play resumed.

Hodson turned it on, recording three of her eight kills and then two of three service aces during a 16-8 run. The 6-foot-2 standout outside hitter gave Palos Verdes fits whenever junior setter Kelsey Humphreys found her.

Palos Verdes Coach Aaron Dyer knew his team was in trouble.

"That [injury] took us out of our offense," said Dyer, who saw Johnson leave the gym to get her ankle examined. "Once we lose our starting setter and our best hitter, it's hard to regroup. We tried some new girls at different spots, but you just feel that we were out of sync."

CdM began to hit on all cylinders and Hodson was a major reason why.

She is the lone freshman on the roster, but to Booker, Hodson doesn't resemble a freshman.

"She looks like a volleyball player," Booker said of Hodson before the season.

What also has impressed Booker is how Hodson fits in on a team with eight juniors and four seniors. A handful of those players, like senior Mary McKennon, contributed to last year's team, which won the Pacific Coast League title for a fifth straight year and reached the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division I-A playoffs.

"Sometimes when there's a freshman on the team, either the freshman is kind of stashed away or the teammates kind of put her the role of the freshman," Booker said last month. "Our team has been so great at accepting her and she has been so great and engaging."

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