CYPRESS — New coach, same result for the Corona del Mar High girls' volleyball team when it comes to CIF Southern Section title matches in recent years.
Marissa Booker, in her first year in charge of a varsity program, led the Sea Kings to a place they reached two of the previous three years with another coach. The program's third trip in four years to a section title match ended on the same note.
The Sea Kings again fell short. They came so close this time.
Top-seeded Los Angeles Marymount rallied to beat second-seeded CdM, 27-25, 21-25, 23-25, 25-18, 15-12, as the Sailors defended their Division I-A section crown at Cypress College on Saturday.
The Sailors stormed the court, while the Sea Kings broke down.
The Sea Kings (31-4) looked stunned. They had given one away to Marymount (30-4).
In the decisive fifth set, CdM took a 7-3 lead after a Marymount timeout. Eight points is all CdM needed to claim its first section title in seven years.
The Sea Kings' next point came after Marymount rattled seven points in a row to take a 10-7 lead. Booker called a timeout, hoping to remind her players of the situation.
"Hey! We've been here before," Booker said to her team. "We can work our way out of this."
Out of the timeout, CdM appeared to bounce back.
Hayley Hodson hammered away to end CdM's drought. The freshman outside hitter recorded three straight kills to tie the set at 10.
Hodson, who finished with 21 kills, never scored again. The Sea Kings' issues with their passing game caught up with them.
Manon Greskovics-Fuller turned it up for Marymount, blasting three of her match-high 23 kills down the stretch. The momentum was with Marymount and a service error by CdM clinched the title for the Sailors.
"It's one of those tough things … as a coach you ache for your players," Booker said. "Right now, that's where I'm at. I feel for them."
The taste of defeat in a section title match was a first for Booker. As a player at Newport Harbor in the late 1990s, she won two section championships.
Before she left the gym, she held the door for her former coach, Dan Glenn, whose Newport Harbor team played in the late match at Cypress College for the Division I-AA title against Los Alamitos.
The Sea Kings beat Newport Harbor earlier this year. They competed against the top Division I-AA programs, beating a handful of them.
The No. 1 program in Division I-A is the one CdM failed to beat this season. Half of the Sea Kings' losses came to Marymount on neutral courts.
The latest effort, closer to home, went the distance, but CdM fell to 7-11 in section title appearances.
Hodson, middle blocker Britton Taylor (15 kills) and outside hitter Grace Kennedy (11 kills) made it go past four sets against Marymount this time around.
Games 2 and 3 went to CdM, which was on the verge of getting its hands on the section plaque.
Kennedy closed out the second set with two kills, evening the match at 1-1. In the third set, Kennedy was banging out winners, and Taylor stuffed a shot late to put CdM ahead, 2-1.
Marymount battled back, taking the fourth set behind Kaity Edwards, who pounded shots from the middle. She played strong in the final set, allowing the Sailors to finish on top again.
The season isn't over for either team as the state playoffs begin next week. But the season sure looked finished by the tears on the faces of the CdM players.
"Monday coming into practice, I told them that they can't have their looks on the faces that they have right now," Booker said. "We still have a season ahead of us."