The Laguna Beach girls' volleyball team played with passion Tuesday in the CIF Southern Section Division 1-A semifinals, giving rival Corona del Mar all it could handle.
"I thought we played hard and with a lot of heart," Laguna Beach Coach Lance Stewart said. "We just didn't make enough good plays to finish things. They (CdM) made more big plays than we did, and that was the difference."
Second-ranked Corona del Mar had many of those big plays in the second game on its way to eliminating the Breakers, 25-20, 25-23, 17-25, 25-16 at Dugger Gym. CdM, the Pacific Coast League champion, trailed, 10-1, at one point in the second set before mounting a furious rally.
"To come back like that in that second set really showed me the heart of this team," said the first-year CdM Coach Marissa Booker, whose squad improved to 31-3 and will face defending-champion Marymount at 4:45 p.m. Saturday at Cypress College in the final.
The third-ranked Breakers appeared to be on their way to evening the match at 1 when they bolted to an early nine-point cushion in the second game behind a combination of hitting miscues by the Sea Kings and a couple of solid kills by freshman outside Alyse Wallace-Ford.
Yet the Sea Kings regained their composure and crept back into the game and eventually tied the score at 19. The teams were tied three more times, the last time at 22 on another kill by Wallace-Ford, before the Sea Kings took the lead for good when junior outside hitter Grace Kennedy sent a shot off Laguna junior middle blocker Julia Goggin. They took the set on a kill by freshman outside hitter Hayley Hodson.
"We were able to take that lead (10-1) due to their passing errors," Stewart said. "They (CdM) settled down and starting passing better, got into a rhythm and went from there. They're a good team."
CdM had strung together a seven-point run in the first game to wipe out 7-6 deficit en route to a 25-20 victory. The Sea Kings never trailed by less than three points after taking a 13-8 lead and led by as many as six points (23-17). The Sea Kings also grabbed a 7-3 lead in the third game on a kill by senior middle blocker Chrissy Watson, but Laguna scored four straight points to take the lead.
The Breakers went in front, 8-7, when senior outside hitter Marina Paul's shot went off Hodson. The teams were tied one last time at 10 and the Breakers took the lead for keeps on a kill by Wallace-Ford. Another kill by Wallace-Ford, who had a match-high 31 kills, put the Breakers on top, 20-13. They secured a 25-17 victory when Arizona State-bound setter Allison Palmer dropped a soft tap for the winner.
The teams were also tied at 10 in the fourth game before the Sea Kings rode a right-side shot and two kills by senior middle blocker Britton Taylor to a 15-12 advantage. The Breakers served twice into the net to allow the Sea Kings to maintain three-point leads at 16-13 and 17-14, and a kill by Watson widened the lead to 19-15. The Sea Kings capped a 3-1 victory on a drop shot by Kennedy.
"Allison (Palmer) left every ounce of her soul on the court," Stewart said. "I thought Caroline (Holte) had some good swings in the middle and Alyse (Wallace-Ford) was pretty dynamic at the net."
Senior starters Palmer, Holte, Paul and Rachele Killian played their final match for the Breakers.
Stewart said that Holte and Killian will attend Ivy League schools Harvard and Brown, respectively, and that Paul is headed to Georgetown on a soccer scholarship.
He said that Palmer signed earlier this month with Arizona State.
"They are getting a hard-working, positive volleyball player," Stewart said of Palmer.