CORONA DEL MAR — One Corona del Mar High player's birthday fell on Wednesday. Before Mary McKennon celebrated her special day, she and the Sea Kings had business to take care of on the volleyball court.
The Sea Kings went into the night undefeated in Pacific Coast League play. Their opponent, Beckman, was also perfect in league.
The Sea Kings made sure the birthday party didn't start late, as they swept, 25-22, 25-14, 25-14.
Coach Marissa Booker wasn't sure what her players got McKennon as a gift. A victory was good enough to her because CdM closed out the first part of league at 5-0.
Next for the Sea Kings is the Torrey Pines California Challenge in San Diego on Friday and Saturday. The tournament will present more of a challenge to CdM (13-1), ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division I-A poll.
While Booker has seen CdM sweep each of its league opponents, she knows that won't be the case every time out down south.
The Sea Kings open pool-play action against Canyon Crest Academy of San Diego Friday. The other two teams in the Sea Kings' pool are Buchanan of Clovis and Redondo Union.
One of the assistants at Redondo Union is quite familiar with most of the players at CdM. That's because Darryl Gan led the Sea Kings the previous three years, taking them to two section title matches, before stepping down in January.
The Sea Kings face their former head coach in the final pool-play match. Booker, who took over for Gan, has set the goals for her players.
"I just want them to play hard and be mentally prepared to play difficult teams," Booker said.
The mental part is what the Sea Kings struggled with in the opening set against Beckman (16-6, 4-1 in league).
The Patriots led for most of Game 1, going up as many as six points. They started strong and Coach Darin McBain was optimistic.
"Thought we had a good shot. Looked like we were going to be able to hang with them," McBain said. "But they're a great team, no doubt about it. They block well. They're a big team. They really don't have a weakness. When we do find a way somehow to get the ball by the blocker, they're sitting right there, ready to dig just about everything."
The birthday girl was one of those players digging balls.
McKennon, a senior libero, helped CdM late in Game 1, allowing the offense to produce. The Sea Kings went on a 6-1 run to tie things up at 17-17.
Freshman outside hitter Hayley Hodson recorded a kill and service ace, senior Nikki Borchard an ace, senior middle blocker Britton Taylor a block and kill, and junior outside hitter Grace Kennedy a kill to bring CdM back.
Kennedy tied it two more times, finishing with eight kills. Taylor, Hodson and junior opposite Shannon Griffin sealed Game 1 with kills. Hodson finished with 11 kills and Taylor contributed six kills and a handful of blocks.
"It's one of those things you have to battle through those mental tough times, and we did. We battled through it," Booker said. "I would definitely like to see more energy from our girls in matches."
Maybe they were saving themselves for McKennon's birthday party later than night.