IRVINE — A college event pushed Corona del Mar High's final Pacific Coast League match at Beckman back a day. When the Sea Kings traveled to Beckman on Wednesday, the college recruiters in the gym were long gone.
The Patriots looked ready to play host to a crucial girls' volleyball match.
They stood in the way of CdM closing out league play perfect. A Beckman win and it shared the league title with the Sea Kings.
The Sea Kings made sure Beckman's players don't graduate with league champion honors before college.
Beckman became the first team to take a set from CdM in league, but that was all the Sea Kings lost. The Sea Kings roared back after dropping the opening set and prevailed, 23-25, 25-9, 25-17, 25-19, to clinch their sixth straight outright league crown.
During the six-year reign in league, only one team has knocked off CdM. That team was Beckman three years ago. Since the setback, the Sea Kings have won 32 league matches in a row.
Coach Marissa Booker has been a part of 10 of those league victories, with this being her first year at CdM. The slow start of the regular-season finale wasn't the one she wanted, not before the Sea Kings enter the CIF Southern Section Division I-A playoffs next week.
"It's frustrating," said Booker, whose team learns what seed it will receive Saturday, when the section releases the playoff pairings.
Booker expects the Sea Kings (27-3) to earn the second seed. They had a chance last Saturday to grab the top seed.
The Sea Kings faced defending section champion Los Angeles Marymount in the semifinals of the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions. The meeting between the No. 1- and 2-ranked teams in the section was a first this season.
Marymount won in four and it advanced to the tournament's title match, where it lost to Goleta Dos Pueblos in a five-set thriller. Marymount won't see the Chargers again in the section playoffs, but it most likely will face CdM again.
If it happens, the Sailors and Sea Kings will compete in the section finale.
The Sea Kings took care of their first business, an undefeated league title. The next title they are aiming to claim is a section one.
In the past three years, CdM has come close to winning a section title. The Sea Kings finished runner-up twice and reached the semifinals once.
With a knowledgeable coach and talented team, CdM is bound to return to its 18th section title match in the program's history.
It took the Sea Kings a set before they returned to championship form on the road.
Britton Taylor led the way at the start of the second, third and fourth sets, scoring the first point each time.
The 6-foot-2 senior middle blocker produced 14 kills and a handful of blocks.
The Sea Kings' size, with Taylor, outside hitters Grace Kennedy (6-3) and Hayley Hodson (6-2), and middle blocker Chrissy Watson (5-11), created problems for the smaller Patriots.
Kennedy lit up Beckman (20-7, 8-2 in league) for a dozen kills, five coming in the second set in which the Sea Kings ran away with. Watson showed her presence down the stretch of sets and recorded 11 kills.
The Sea Kings' firepower proved to be too much for Beckman to handle.