Local coaches, players close out year at All-Star match

NEWPORT BEACH — Dan Thomassen joked that he never played in the Dave Mohs Memorial Orange County High School Volleyball match because he wasn't quite at that level in high school.

But he coached in it for the second time on Friday.

Thomassen came back to his alma mater, Newport Harbor High. A former Sailor joined him on the bench. He and Marissa Booker coached the South girls' team against the North.

Booker made her coaching debut in the match featuring the best seniors in the county. She used to be one of those top players 13 years ago.

Both Booker and Thomassen had players in the match from their respective high school programs where they coach, Corona del Mar and Sage Hill.

The two coaches earned the right to coach in the All-Star match because they led their programs to the CIF Southern Section Division 1-A and 4-AA title matches, respectively, in November.

Booker and Thomassen also got to coach three members of Newport Harbor's team, which made a Division 1-AA title appearance.

Almost half the South team was comprised of local talented players with championship experience, but it wasn't enough for Booker and Thomassen to lead the team to a victory in the best-of-three match. The North won, 25-21, 19-25, 15-11.

Winning wasn't the most important thing.

"This is a really great thing to do here," Thomassen said of the event honoring Mohs, a former coach at Huntington Beach and Edison. "It raises a little bit of money. You get to show off the best players in all of Orange County. Newport is the perfect gym to do it in."

The host gym saw three players compete one last time on its court.

The three were outside hitter Cinnamon Sary, libero Tatum Norton and outside hitter Kasey Thompson. The trio helped the South take the second set and even the match.

Before the match began, Norton wasn't sure how well the team would perform. She and the other two Sailors played alongside athletes they competed against in the Battle of the Bay rivalry and during the season.

In Norton's case, she was familiar with three players, Sary, the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year, who is bound for USC, Thompson (Hawaii Pacific) and CdM middle blocker Britton Taylor (UC Santa Barbara). The three play on the same club team, Orange County Volleyball Club 18s team.

On the other side of the net was another club teammate, outside hitter Ashley Cox of Mater Dei.

Norton, who's going to Oregon, wasn't the only premier libero on the court for the South.

Mary McKennon, a CdM standout bound for UC Berkeley, awed Thomassen on the court.

"McKennon was unbelievable," Thomassen said. "I've seen her play a little bit. But to be a little bit more focused on what she's doing on the court and how she talks to teammates and girls she knows and girls she doesn't know … really, really impressed."

Thomassen also took satisfaction in watching his own player at Sage Hill participate in the All-Star festivities.

Zoe Kreitenberg, a middle blocker bound for Army, made a couple of blocks. She played a vital role to Sage Hill claiming its second section crown in the program's history and having Thomassen coach once again in the All-Star match.


Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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